The possibility that all coronavirus restrictions will be lifted next month “looks good,” said the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency.
According to the government’s timetable, the last phase of activation should take place on June 21 at the earliest.
However, Jenny Harries urged the public to be careful to avoid another lockdown, warning that the new Indian variant has become the “dominant strain” in some parts of the country.
She told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, “It looks good if people keep watching all safety signals. That is why we should not stop doing what we are doing, especially in areas where we have this variant of concern, the B1617.2, in the North West and around London.
“It’s really important that people keep doing their hands, face, space and work from home, have their bumps and also do tests.
“The cases of the B1617.2 variant are on the rise, they have gone up very sharply and a lot of the media reported a 160% increase in cases over the course of the week, but they seem to be leveling off slightly at the moment.
“It’s still very early.”
Harries added: “We all have to be very careful and I think we all don’t want to go back to the locks we had. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the saga or in the public eye, none of us want to go back to that type of restriction. “
Nightclubs are slated to reopen on June 21 at the earliest, and restrictions on large events like festivals are slated to be lifted, as are restrictions on the number of people at weddings.
Harries warned against exercising caution as the new Indian strain creates a “mixed picture” across the UK.
She added, “If you look at areas like Bolton and Bedford in the northwest for example, it is gradually becoming the dominant variety, superseding the Kent variety which was our predominant over the winter months.
“But that’s not the case across the country. If you’re in the southwest, it still isn’t.”
The words of caution were repeated by Home Secretary Priti Patel, who said there would be no “green light” to lift restrictions.
Patel said, “We all have to be conscientious. All of us who are out and about, distance ourselves, wear masks and obey all the rules.
“This is part of our normal life now and it will continue and of course that will help us get that clearance on June 21st.”
Professor Adam Finn of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization told BBC Breakfast: “I think there is some uncertainty about the situation at the moment. I think in some ways there was uncertainty all along.
“It has always been a kind of tentative schedule, and it needs or may need to be adjusted to events as they occur.
“If we are in June, whatever happens on that date, this global pandemic will not be over. It will still go on.
“There will still be cases in this country, across Europe and around the world, so that life doesn’t suddenly go back to normal in June because life won’t really be normal until it is brought under control.
“Life is getting normal, but it’s not normal yet.”