Published: 13:50, 12 June 2021
| Updated: 14:30, 12 June 2021
Boris Johnson has committed to a "cautious" approach to the looming decision to delay or proceed with the final step out of lockdown.
The government's "roadmap" to lifting all Covid-19 restrictions had June 21 pencilled in as our so-called 'freedom day' - but the rise of the Delta variant of the virus has thrown this into doubt.
With the rise of the more transmissible strain of the virus, and a commitment that the final stage of the easing will be irreversible, the Prime Minister faces a tough decision about whether to stick to the timetable or pause in the hope that more jabs will mean the spread of the variant is slowed.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Johnson said: "The roadmap was always cautious but irreversible and in order to have an irreversible roadmap, we've got to be cautious.
"Again you have hospitalisations up, you've got cases up. There are grounds for caution. That doesn't mean that this country hasn't made enormous progress with vaccination.
"Clearly what we have is a race between the vaccines and the virus - and the vaccines are going to win. So it's just a question of the pace."
The Delta variant - first identified in India - is now understood to account for nine in 10 cases of Covid-19 nationally.
"In order to have an irreversible roadmap, we've got to be cautious..."
Scientists have warned that if the rise in cases of the strain is not checked, then we could once again face the prospect of hospitals being overwhelmed, threatening to further impact the treatment of non-Covid illnesses.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the Nervtag advisory group, said that it was a “disappointing setback” that the Delta variant first identified India seemed even more successful than the previous strains.
Delta strain cases have risen by almost 70% in west Kent - but are actually falling on the other side of the county.
Latest figures show there were 202 new cases of the variant across the region in the week up to June 4 - up by 53.
Mr Johnson, who is currently in Cornwall hosting the G7 summit of world leaders, has spoken of "worrying signs" in the latest data, leading many to speculate that on Monday he will announce a four-week delay to the full reopening of society and the economy.