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Britain could face coronavirus restrictions until next spring, ministers have warned.
On Saturday, June 12, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave quite a clear signal that he is planning a delay to full normality for another month, stating he wanted to given the Covid-19 vaccines "extra legs" in the race between vaccines and lockdowns, The Telegraph reported.
Government advisers told ministers they will face a ticking clock before it becomes too late to lift the remaining restrictions in September.
A senior minister spoke of fears that the planned delay would leave a "very short window to open up", with further postponements leading to an eventual re-opening in the spring, when the transmission is less frequent and winter strains on the NHS have relaxed.
The minister said: "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'.
"Once you start delaying to the spring you're making this type of control of people's lives semi-permanent."
Over the weekend there has been backlash from senior backbenchers who opposed the extension of restrictions, which included a cap on wedding guests, mass gatherings and keeping the rule of six indoors.
Deputy chair of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), said "It is increasingly clear that the modellers are our masters now…Boris Johnson will need to be extremely careful he doesn't allow them to lead us into a lockdown that lasts all winter."
The Prime Minister was briefed on the latest transmission and hospitalisation data on Saturday afternoon, along with senior ministers Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Matt Hancock.
On Sunday evening, following Mr Johnson's return from the G7 summit in Cornwall, the Covid-O group of ministers will meet to agree on plans to delay the planned June 21 reopening, with an announcement expected on Monday, June 14.
Speaking in advance of the meeting, Mr Johnson warned: “We are seeing some worrying stuff in the data, clearly. We are seeing the delta variant causing an increase in cases, we are seeing an increase in hospitalisations.”
He added: "The whole point of having an irreversible roadmap is just that, to make it irreversible, and to do that sometimes, as I've said repeatedly, you have to be cautious. And where it's necessary to be cautious, we will be."
James Ward, a mathematician, also said there was a “sweet spot” for dealing with the peak of the delta variant. He told The Telegraph it should be dealt with over the summer by delaying re-opening, but not for too long.
He said: “If we're going to have to manage another wave, the summer is probably the best time to do it. With the schools and universities closed we can spread things out.
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“It won't necessarily change the number of people who die or the number who end up in hospital very much but it squashes the peak.
“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.
“The NHS is under more pressure then and there's potential to get quite a nasty winter wave.
“If you're trying to run an NHS or even run an economy, the peak matters."
- Boris Johnson
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