Covid: Vaccines minister stresses need to be 'really careful' as June 21 'freedom day' in doubt

Will restrictions lift on June 21? The vaccines minister says caution is needed when making the decision

The vaccines minister has warned against "squandering hard-fought battles" following reports there could be a four-week delay to the planned easing of all restrictions on June 21.

Nadhim Zahawi stressed the importance of being “really careful” in lifting coronavirus rules amid concerns over the rise of the Delta variant, which was first identified in India. The warning comes as The Times reported ministers are considering a four-week delay to what some are calling “freedom day”, in order to give businesses certainty and allow more time for people to receive both vaccine doses.

"We've had some hard fought battles against this virus, let's not squander those hard fought and won battles, let's take things really carefully," Mr Zahawi told ITV News.

Boris Johnson is due to make a decision shortly on whether England can go ahead with full reopening on June 21, with an announcement expected on Monday. The Prime Minister is being urged to err on the side of caution and delay the next stage of his road map as new figures show case rates have increased in every region in England.

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Health experts have argued that Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions will rise if the remaining restrictions in England are lifted on June 21,

On Friday, Mr Zahawi also assured that Britons will not be impacted by the UK offering at least 100 million surplus vaccine doses to some of the world’s poorest countries.

Boris Johnson made the vaccine pledge on Friday as leaders of some of the richest countries on the planet gathered in Cornwall for the G7 Summit.

Mr Zahawi said: "It will not impact domestic deployment of the vaccination programme, our first duty remains to the safety of the British people."