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Remaining restrictions in England ‘unlikely’ to be lifted early on 5 July – minister

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It is “unlikely” that coronavirus restrictions will be lifted early on 5 July, a minister has told Sky News.

Asked about the prospect of the government acting sooner to remove COVID-19 measures, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he would “err on the side of caution” and “look to 19 July”.

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“It could be before but I think that is unlikely. Generally we have stuck to the dates we have set,” he said.

“I think now I am very focused on 19 July.”

When he announced a four-week postponement of step four of England’s roadmap out of lockdown – pushing it from 21 June to 19 July – Boris Johnson said a review would take place on 5 July to see if action could be taken sooner.

Mr Kwarteng’s comments come after a vaccines expert told Sky News that the UK could open up “sooner rather than later” thanks to the huge numbers of people being vaccinated.

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Brendan Wren, professor of vaccinology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that having more than 81% of the adult population with a first coronavirus jab, and 59% with both doses is “very encouraging”.

Asked whether the success of the vaccine programme means England will not need to wait until 19 July to fully open up, he said: “We’d still need to be vigilant – but vigilance and vaccination are the two words.

“So, I think if the numbers continue to be promising then I think there’s great hope we could open up on 5 July.”

One of the big questions as the UK emerges from the pandemic is how the government’s response to COVID – which has included billions in support for workers and businesses – will be paid for.

According to reports, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering suspending the triple lock – which guarantees that the state pension increases in line with inflation, earnings or 2.5%, whichever is higher – for a year.

But Mr Kwarteng said he was “pretty sure the triple lock will stay”.