A Government advisor has admitted tighter covid restrictions could return to the UK.
Prof Graham Medley, whose SAGE group advises the Government on emergencies, has warned the nation may return to seeing hundreds of covid deaths a day.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the nation on Monday evening the planned lifting of lockdown restrictions had been delayed.
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It had been due to take place on June 21, but has now been delayed until at least July 19.
Mr Johnson is concerned about the Delta variant - first detected in India - now sweeping the UK.
He wants to ramp up vaccinations in the next month so as many people are protected against getting seriously ill as possible.
"Although the numbers of deaths are low at the moment, everyone expects that they will rise. The question is really as to what level they will rise," Prof Medley told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
"And at the moment there is a lot of uncertainty in what’s going to happen over the next couple of months."
Asked whether the nation could have returned to hundreds of deaths a day again had restrictions been lifted, Prof Medley said: "Oh easily. I think we still might at some point.
"Remember the Government risks are not the same as individual personal risks. My kind of risks are about whether or not I get ill or whether or not I die; Government risks are primarily based upon ... whether healthcare can continue to function.
"And so they're really focused very much on how many people end up in hospital; how many people end up in high-dependency in hospital.
"That is the focus of their risk and thinking about what (they should) do to prevent those bad things happening.
"So it's really an uncertainty at the moment; it's too early to say for sure what will happen at the peak of this next epidemic."
Asked about whether there could be a need for future lockdown measures, Prof Medley told the Today programme: "Again, it really depends upon what the prospects look like in terms of the way that this virus reacts with the vaccine.
"There is that possibility though, I think that depending on what the Government wants to achieve, they may well have to make decisions that are against what they would much prefer not to do which is to make the changes that we've got irreversible.
"It is possible we could end up with a situation whereby the numbers of people going to hospital, really mean that the Government have to take some kind of action that they don’t want to, but I think that’s always been the case – Government has always taken action to that it didn’t want to, it never wanted to lockdown.
"And it’s always going to be the case in the sense that there is this pandemic ongoing but the next pandemic will happen at some point unknown, and then having used lockdowns once it’s quite possible that the Government would choose to use them again."
The Delta variant "would have ended up in the UK at some point" even if the borders had been closed sooner, said Prof Medley.
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Asked whether it would have made a difference if Britain had stopped people coming from India in early April, he told the Today programme: "Potentially, I mean it’s speculation. The newer Delta variant is now quite common around the globe so it would have ended up in the United Kingdom at some point but perhaps it would have been delayed.
"It's really the competition between the virus and the vaccine so had the variant arrived in the country when we'd had more people vaccinated, then it may well not have grown in the same way that it has.
"It is now the predominant virus in the United Kingdom. And so it got a good start.
"Whether that’s made a huge difference I think is something that we can look at afterwards but at the moment it’s kind of speculation."