Government 'reserves the right' to reimpose Covid restrictions, minister warns

The government has warned it "reserves the right" to reimpose coronavirus restrictions in England after it was reported some measures could return in as little as three weeks.

Minister Victoria Atkins acknowledged Covid-19 "moves in unpredictable ways" and the development of new strains, such as the Delta variant, means conditions could be brought in "if they are deemed appropriate".

But she told ITV News the UK's successful vaccination programme "is key" to keeping England open after all restrictions were lifted on Monday.

"That vaccination has weakened the link between infections and hospitalisations - as we see the numbers surging in terms of infections, happily we're not seeing the sort of mirroring in hospitalisations that we would have seen a year ago."

Minister Victoria Atkins on the potential for new restrictions:

She added: "I very, very much hope that if we can get more jabs into arms over the next couple of weeks we will still be able to make progress."

The minister was responding to a question about a report in the i, which said Boris Johnson's scientific advisers believe restrictions may need to return if hospitalisations surge.

Members of Sage, the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, have reportedly told the prime minister hospitalisations could be between 1,000 and 2,000 a day by mid-August, with deaths hitting between 100 and 200 per day.

Reports say scientists have advised measures such as mandatory face masks and work from home advice could be reintroduced.

Ms Atkins said she wasn't aware of the advice but said the government has been "cautious" with its roadmap in order to keep hospitalisations down.

Coronavirus cases are surging in the UK, with 46,558 new infections recorded on Tuesday and 93 deaths.

The reduction in deaths compared to cases is attributed to the UK's vaccine success, which has seen more than 46 million given their first dose and 36 million given their second dose.

The new deaths brings the UK total to 128,823.