Boris Johnson is set to announce later today that the final stages of restrictions could last for another month, leaving some senior Ministers worried that these measures could last until spring next year.
Almost 50,000 people tested positive with the Indian variant in the last seven days, and experts are worried that the new strain could be fuelling an explosion in cases as they are piling up fast.
Senior politicians warned the Telegraph that summer will provide a very short window to open up the country.
If this is missed then England could be facing a semi-lockdown until spring 2021.
One unnamed senior Minister told the newspaper, “I am very worried the people who want to keep us shut down now want us to keep us shut down permanently and are aiming for ‘zero Covid’.”
Senior Tories, including “several ministers” believe there will be even more calls by mid July to keep the final stage of easing in place by scientists as there will be more cases.
A senior Conservative MP told the Telegraph, “I just don’t buy that in four weeks time it will somehow look completely different and the scientists will say, it’’s fine, you crack on’.”
James Ward, a mathematician at the London School of Economics (LSE), said there is a ‘sweet spot’ for opening up because a wave of infections is easier to manage over the summer.
He said he supports a delay to “Freedon Day,” but not for long, as the peak of infections would be the worst outcome as the NHS will already be, at that time of the year already under pressure.
The LSE mathematician warned, “If you delay reopening further than that, to September, say, you start putting power into an exit wave that occurs in October and November when seasonality may make it worse.’
Johnson told Sky News, “It’s clear that the Indian variant is more transmissible and it’s also true that the cases are going up, and that the levels of hospitalisation are going up.
“Now, we don’t know exactly to what extent that is going to feed through into extra mortality, but clearly it’s a matter of serious, serious concern.”
Dr Hans Kluge of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the Indian variant, which is officially called Delta, that virus had shown signs of being able to evade some vaccines.
Dr Kluge said, “We have been here before.
“Over the course of last summer, cases gradually rose in younger age groups and then moved into older age groups, contributing to a devastating resurgence.”
Professor Neil Fergusson of Imperial College London, warned the work by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) is basically “saying there is a risk of a substantial third wave, we cannot be definitive about the scale of that, it could be substantially lower than the second wave, or it could be of the same order of magnitude.
“That, critically, depends on how effective the vaccines still are protecting people against hospitalisation and death against the Delta variant, as well as a few other unknowns.”