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There is no data to suggest England's end to lockdown on 21 June might be delayed, the business secretary has said - but he cannot give a guarantee.

"I don't think we will move the date," said Kwasi Kwarteng - but added that the scientific evidence could change.

Some scientists believe the reopening date should be delayed until more people are fully vaccinated.

Most people in hospital in Bolton - a Covid hotspot - have only had one dose, a leading doctor there said.

"We have a significant numbers of 30 and 40-year-olds going in [to hospital] and obviously they've only really just in recent times become eligible," said Dr Helen Wall, who works on leading Bolton's vaccine programme.

The variant first identified in India is now believed to be responsible for up to three-quarters of new Covid cases in the UK.


Cases of the Indian variant are still mainly focused in hotspots such as Bolton, Bedford and Blackburn with Darwen - but most parts of the country now have small numbers of cases, Public Health England said.

Where is the Indian variant and how is it spreading?
What are the rules in the areas affected by the Indian variant?
Some health experts - such as Prof Christina Pagel, from University College London - believe the 21 June date - when all remaining restrictions in England are due to be lifted - should be delayed until a greater proportion of the population have had two doses.

Currently, 45.6% of the UK's adult population have had their second dose - around 24 million people - and this proportion is rising by roughly 5% every week.

"If we can just delay international travel, delay stage four of the roadmap until we have a much higher proportion of people vaccinated with two doses, we're in a much, much better position," said Prof Pagel.

"We're only two months away from that, it's not long to wait."

Prof Andrew Hayward, a member of the Sage advisory group, added: "I think there is a good argument for caution until such time as we've got a much higher proportion of the population double vaccinated."

And Dr Mike Tildesley, who sits on a group that feeds into Sage, suggested that if lockdown easing is delayed a little bit, "we can allow the vaccines to help us".

Cases continue to rise across the UK - something that was always expected as lockdown eased - but the government has said the crucial thing is to see how that affects the number of people in hospital. That is among the most important data that will affect whether the 21 June date can go ahead.

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