The NHS is likely to remain under pressure for at least another six weeks, according to a top health executive.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts in England, is calling on the prime minister to be cautious with the easing of restrictions.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, he said case numbers were “still far too high” and the health service remained “at full stretch”, something he said trust leaders believed would continue for at least another six to eight weeks.
He said: “The evidence on COVID-19 cases, NHS capacity, progress with vaccinations and readiness to combat COVID-19 variants all show that it is much too early to start lifting restrictions.”
Mr Johnson has said he will look at the data this week on case numbers, hospital admissions, deaths and the impact of the vaccine rollout as he considers how to reduce restrictions.
This plan is expected to be revealed on Monday.
The Daily Mail reported that holiday lets could be open in time for the Easter weekend and that pubs could open in May but that only a maximum of two households would be allowed to mix indoors.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the number of new cases would have to fall to below 1,000 per day before lockdown is softened – a long way from the 10,625 confirmed cases reported on Tuesday.
This was echoed by Steve Paterson, professor of genetics at Liverpool University, who told Sky News the number of new cases should be “in the low thousands per day”.
The Times said there would be mass testing before some schools reopen next month, and the Department for Health and Social Care has not denied suggestions that rapid-result tests will be a big part of the return to normality.
The newspaper said that a scheme called ‘Are You Ready? Get Testing. Go’ would see more than 400,000 lateral flow tests being sent to homes and workplaces every day, similar to the scheme being run by more than 70% of England’s local authorities.
A DHSC spokesman said: “We have not finalised further plans for testing.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce Clive Dix told Sky News that every adult in the UK could receive both doses of a coronavirus vaccine by August or September “or maybe sooner if we need to”.