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”.
“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.
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”.