Boris Johnson has said it was “looking good” for England’s lockdown to be lifted on July 19.
The prime minister’s description of that date as a “terminus point” for Covid restrictions suggest the unlocking will not be brought forward to July 5 as some had hoped.
Speaking at a laboratory in Hertfordshire on Monday, Johnson also did not rule out a return to lockdowns in the winter.
“You can never exclude that there will be some new disease, some new horror that we simply haven’t budgeted for, or accounted for,” he saiid.
“But looking at where we are, looking at the efficacy of the vaccines against all variants that we can currently see – so Alpha, Delta, the lot of them, Kappa – I think it’s looking good for July 19 to be that terminus point.”
Johnson also played down suggestions that restrictions on foreign travel could be lifted as more people received the vaccine.
“I want to stress that this is going to be – whatever happens – a difficult year for travel,” he said.
“There will be hassle, there will be delays, I am afraid, because the priority has got to be to keep the country safe and stop the virus coming back in.”
A surge in cases, driven by the Delta variant of the virus, has already forced Johnson to delay the end of the current lockdown from June 21 to July 19.
Dr Susan Hopkins, strategic director for Covid-19 at Public Health England, has said the NHS should be able to have given 70% of the population two doses by that date.
She also told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that “further lockdowns” might be needed.
“I can’t predict the future, it really depends on whether the hospitals start to become overwhelmed at some point,” she said.
Meanwhile Matt Hancock has confirmed people who have had two Covid jabs and come into contact with someone infected with the virus will not have to self-isolate.