The new Health Secretary had told reporters in his first interview since accepting the role it was his “absolute priority” to get “restrictions lifted as soon as we can, as quickly as possible”.
Prof Openshaw said he hoped Mr Javid will take a “cautious approach” just hours before the Health Secretary confirmed in the Commons that there is no reason they can’t meet the Freedom Day deadline.
He told Sky News: “He may have different attitudes, but I do hope that he will follow his predecessor, and take a very cautious approach, because we must get the vaccination rates up before we ease the restrictions.”
Asked if the July 19 data could be brought forward, he said: “I think it would be a mistake. We are very fortunate to have had this four week delay which allows vaccination rates to get really high and for us to gather a lot more data about just how the Delta agent is spreading.
“And I think bringing the date forward would be a definite mistake.
“I do hope that that date, which of course was said to be the earliest date, is a provisional date and it could even be delayed. I do hope we will we will not be accelerating that easement.”
He added: “I think it’s a possibility this Delta agent is ferociously infectious and we can see the impact it has on relatively unvaccinated populations – Australia for example.
“It’s so important that we get the vaccination rates as high as we can before there’s any consideration of easing the current restrictions which are not really holding the outbreak, you can see the numbers increasing, despite the measures that we have in place at the moment.”
Downing Street insisted decisions on lifting lockdown were still driven by “data not dates” despite the comments from Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid about July 19.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We want this road map to be irreversible and that by taking a cautious approach we won’t have to take any backward step as regards to lockdown measures.”
Asked whether Mr Johnson’s main priority was saving lives or lifting restrictions, the spokesman said: “The approach we have taken is ensuring we protect lives and livelihoods.”