Britain may be in the early stages of a third wave of coronavirus, scientists are warning.
Professor Ravi Gupta from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group said cases were “relatively low”, but the Indian variant had caused “exponential growth”.
“If things go as I think they are going to go, we will likely end up with a third wave.
“It will be a big wave of infections and there will be deaths and severe illness,” he said on Monday.
The variant is causing almost three quarters of new Covid-19 cases.
Last Sunday more than 3,000 new infections for Covid-19 were recorded for a fifth successive day. Cases have not surpassed this level since April.
Gupta has called on the government to postpone the end of Covid-19 restrictions in England, currently set for 21 June.
“If you look at the costs and benefits of getting it wrong, I think it is heavily in favour of delay, so I think that’s the key thing,” he said.
The last stage of ending restrictions will remove all limits on how many people can meet outdoors or indoors.
The government is expected to make its final decision on when to do this by 14 June.
Gupta added that the number of people vaccinated means the wave would take longer to emerge than previous ones.
“There may be a false sense of security for some time, and that’s our concern,” he said.
The Indian variant B.1.617.2 is spreading faster than the Kent variant, which caused cases to surge over winter. It is not clear how resistant the Indian variant is to vaccines.
A rise in cases would put the NHS under massive new pressure amid a backlog in non‑coronavirus related cases and following two Covid-19 waves.
As the Tories encourage people to go out, scientists are calling for caution.
Susan Michie, a professor of health psychology at University College London and from the government’s advisory Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours, said, “We’re on a knife-edge.
“We could go either way with this new variant.
“Either it could run away as it did before Christmas, which would be extremely serious and we’d have to have more restrictions, or potentially it could be contained.”
But the Tories cannot be trusted to do anything except to continue to put profits before people’s needs.