Numerous rules have been in place since the start of the pandemic, with gradual relaxations implemented over the past few months as part of Boris Johnson’s roadmap.
However, 21 June is the current date set for all lockdown restrictions to come to an end, if the data allows it.
That being the case, rituals that have become part of every day life for over a year – such as mask wearing, working from home and restrictions on gatherings both at home and at larger events – would no longer be necessary.
Watch: Boris Johnson hints at delay to lockdown easing
A review of the situation will take place on 14 June – but there are growing concerns about the spread of the Indian variant – renamed the Delta variant by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Ministers have started to suggest that the 21 June date could be delayed as a result of rising cases.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday there was a “challenging decision” to be made over the further lifting of COVID restrictions on 21 June, while chancellor Rishi Sunak is reportedly willing to accept a short delay.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said any delay to England’s road map for easing lockdown would only be for a couple of weeks, owing to the success of the vaccination programme.
On Wednesday, the prime minister said the government will “look at all the data as it comes in” before going ahead with the next step out of lockdown – and suggested that the country should be prepared for a delay.
He said: “I think what everybody can see very clearly is that cases are going up and in some places hospitalisations are going up.
“And I think what we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up enough protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage.”
But Tory lockdown-sceptic Sir Charles Walker warned Johnson against delaying the earmarked end to legal coronavirus restrictions.
The vice chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs told BBC Newsnight this week: “There will be a huge wave of disappointment across the country if we don’t open up on 21 June.
“The delay could be two weeks, a month, but I think the real issue here is if we can’t open up the economy at the height of summer then I think we are facing the very real prospect of more forced lockdowns in the autumn – I just don’t see how we can avoid that.
“The goalposts – as we’ve always said, it’s a well-worn cliche – are moving.”
Watch: Government minister on criteria for 21 June decision