Announcing a delay to the final stage of lifting England’s Covid measures last week due to a surge in cases linked to the Delta variant, Boris Johnson also told the public there would be a review after two weeks.
Pressed on the date, the business secretary, who said he hoped for “some type of normality” on 19 July, told Sky News: “I think between you and me, I would always err on the side of caution and I would look to 19 July.
“It could be before, but I think that’s unlikely. Well, I don’t know, that’s just my guess. Generally we’ve stuck to the dates that we’ve said.
“I remember in the previous dates there was a lot of push to try to get the dates 12 April earlier, the 17 May earlier. That didn’t happen.”
Mr Kwarteng’s comments come on 21 June — the day the remaining restrictions were due to be lifted under the government’s original roadmap, but was forced to postpone last week due to surging cases of the Delta variant first detected in India.
“We will monitor the position every day and if after 2 weeks we have concluded that the risk has diminished then we reserve the possibility of proceeding to Step 4 and full opening sooner,” Mr Johnson said.
“As things stand – and on the basis of the evidence I can see right now – I am confident we will not need any more than 4 weeks and we won’t need to go beyond 19 July”.
Speaking on Sunday, Dr Susan Hopkins, a senior official at Public Health England, said there were “rises and falls” in Covid-19 cases across the country, with the virus having “definitely reversed” in Bolton and “stabilised” in Blackburn with Darwen but continuing to “rise quite fast” in London and the northeast.
The scientist added it was unlikely the remaining social distancing measures would be lifted in England ahead of 19 July, adding: “My strong opinion is the longer we just take our time and get through this period to get the maximum amount of people vaccinated is a positive thing for this summer and to get us through this winter.
“So my view would be to keep going, that we can live at this level and then that would mean hopefully when we come out of this level of restrictions, which are much easier to live with I think for many of us, then we would be able to get on and get back to normal and stay back to normal for a very prolonged period.”