The final lifting of lockdown could be delayed until July as the Government works up a “plan B”, it has been reported.
Civil servants are said to be plugging away behind the scenes to come up with a contingency plan that may involve pushing back the so-called Freedom Day on June 21.
England is hosting a number of Euro 2020 games, including the semi-finals and finals at Wembley.
All three of those matches are scheduled to take place in July and it had been hoped the delirious scenes that accompanied the Three Lions’ run in the World Cup three years ago could be repeated.
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But delaying the end of lockdown could mean the number of supporters allowed in grounds and in pubs are restricted.
At present, all legal limits on social distancing are set to be scrapped from June 21 – although this is already under review.
The rumoured delay comes as the Indian variant continues to rise across the country.
Infection rates are on the rise in 217 local areas, or 69 per cent, and travel restrictions have been increased to stop the surge
The Mirror has approached Downing Street for comment on the claims about “plan B”.
It was revealed on Friday that the ‘R rate’ – the metric for how infectious Covid is – is as high as 1.2 in parts of Britain.
This, and increasing, cases has fuelled fears of a third wave.
But, at present, deaths and hospital admissions remain low compared to the peak of the pandemic.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government “always expected cases to rise” as lockdown was eased, but the data being watched “very carefully” is the number of people being admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms.
The Cabinet minister told reporters: “We publish all the information we have about the new variants, including the Delta variant, and we take this approach of full transparency.
“The data on the impact on hospitalisations are very early data, so we can’t yet conclude with any confidence that there’s an impact on your risk of hospitalisation.
“But of course, we publish the early data and we watch it very carefully.
“Now, we always expected cases to rise as the country was opened up, the critical thing is the impact on the number of people who end up in hospital for any given number of cases.
“That link has been broken by the vaccine, but it hasn’t been completely severed yet.
“That’s one of the things that we’re watching very carefully, and it’s too early to say what the decision will be ahead of June 21, but we’ll make sure people know in good time.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be keen to push ahead with the unlocking later this month, but ministers are more weary.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling was instrumental to Britain locking down in March 2020, said a “cautious” approach is needed as the Government balances the potential risks against a desire for normality.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We know at the moment that the Delta variant, the Indian variant, is doubling across the country about every nine days, with some variability place to place.
“But we haven’t fully seen the effect of what happened from May 17, step three, the relaxation of restrictions, come through into that data, so we expect that to accelerate even more.”
To date, nearly 26.8million people have been vaccinated in Britain.