Kwasi Kwarteng Says No Current Data To Suggest 21 June Lockdown Easing Delay After India Variant Rise
Kwasi Kwarteng has urged people to be "vigilant" amid further spread of the Indian variant (PA)
There is currently no data to suggest the 21 June lockdown easing should be delayed, Kwasi Kwarteng has said.
The business secretary urged the public to be "very vigilant" amid a growing number of Covid cases, mostly of the India variant, as he said ministers were watching the data on an "almost minute by minute" basis.
It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday that more than half and potentially as many as three-quarters of all new cases identified in the UK were caused by the latest strain.
Ministers have repeatedly said that the final stage of the lockdown easing could be delayed if infections begin to rise across the country, but speaking on Friday, Kwarteng said there was currently "nothing" in the data to suggest it would be necessary.
"As you know we've been looking at data on a daily basis, almost minute by minute. We've been very clear that we'll be looking at the scientific data before we rush to any conclusions," he told BBC Breakfast.
"We've said that as far as I can see there's nothing in the data that will delay the date but we've said we're always reviewing the data and we'll come to a final conclusion on whether to reopen on 21 June on 14 June."But he warned it was "impossible" to predict how the situation might change over the next few weeks as he urged the public to be "vigilant" to help prevent the spread of the new strain.
"It is impossible for anyone to know what the situation will be like in a week or two week's time," he added.
"As far as I am concerned we have been looking at the data and we have said repeatedly that we won't make a final decision about 21st June until the 14th June, a week before the established date.
"I can't guarantee one thing or another now, I think we just have to look at the data, be patient and we've got to be very vigilant."
He added: "People should also be sensible and observe all the guidelines in terms of mask wearing and social distancing.
"We can't make any call one way or the other unfortunately."
His comments come after Danny Altman, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said the 21 June plans were "balanced on a knife edge".
Speaking to Sky News, he said: "Hopefully there’s some quite careful thought and mathematical modelling being done into this. For my taste at the moment, that looks somewhat in doubt.
"We really are balanced on a knife edge, but surely from all that we’ve all seen in the last 13 or 14 months we realise how unforgiving and relentless this virus is. And you can’t joke around with it with half measures."