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Public health officials have called for a delay to lifting the last coronavirus restrictions in England on 21 June to "stop us going backwards".

The Association of Directors of Public Health said unlocking then would risk an increase in hospital admissions.

The government is expected to announce on Monday whether it will remove the last of the restrictions a week later.

Minister Nadhim Zahawi said it had to be careful not to squander the progress made in tackling the virus.

The final stage of lifting restrictions would see all legal limits on social contact removed. Nightclubs would reopen, and restrictions on performances, weddings and other life events would also be lifted.

But concerns about the spread of the Delta variant, first identified in India and now dominant in the UK, have led some scientists to call for a delay to ending lockdown.

Public Health England said its latest figures showed more than 90% of new cases were now the Delta variant, which continues to show a significantly higher rate of growth compared with the Alpha (or Kent) variant.

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Association of Directors of Public Health vice-president Jim McManus told Radio 4's Today programme the government had a "fiendishly difficult decision" to make on whether to ease restrictions further.

However, he said if we "invest that little bit of time to keep us going forwards, it will stop us going backwards".

"If you get enough people infected, you will get a rise in hospitalisations," he said.

He added that the more people getting infected would allow more variants to develop, which could risk a variant developing that evades the vaccine completely.

"So actually, investing a bit of time is really important to enable the vaccine programme to finish and do its job."

Asked about reports in the Times that the government was considering a four-week delay, he said that would be "really welcome".

Latest government figures show that nearly 29 million people in the UK have had both doses of a vaccine - 54.8% of the adult population.

Asked about the government decision Mr Zahawi, the vaccines minister, told BBC Breakfast: "We have to be really careful so that those hard won wars against the virus are not squandered."

He reiterated that the government would "share the data on Monday".

"We all know the virus hasn't gone away, it will attempt to mutate," he said. "The Delta variant is more infectious and more severe for those it infects. So, we have to be really careful".

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