A UK Government adviser has said plans to fully unlock coronavirus restrictions next month should be delayed "by a few weeks".

Microbiologist Professor Ravi Gupta of the University of Cambridge made the warning as he said the UK was in the grips of an "early" third wave of Covid-19 infections driven by the so-called Indian variant.

It comes as Boris Johnson's Tory government is facing pressure to revise the June 21 date that was set for the complete relaxation of restrictions in England.

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Gupta told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think the problem is we are not too far from reaching the sort of levels of vaccination that would help us contain the virus and I think that people are not saying we should abandon the June 21 date altogether but just to delay it by a few weeks while we gather more intelligence and we can look at the trajectory in a clearer way.

“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.

“Yes, we will learn to live with it but this date that was set did not take into account the fact we would have a new variant on the horizon, with properties that allow it to evade antibodies to some extent and a virus which is more transmissible.”

The National:

Gupta (above), a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) advising the UK Government, also told the Today programme that there has been "exponential growth" in the number of new cases with "at least three-quarters" being the new variant.

He continued: “Of course the numbers of cases are relatively low at the moment – all waves start with low numbers of cases that grumble in the background and then become explosive, so the key here is that what we are seeing here is the signs of an early wave.

“It will probably take longer than earlier waves to emerge because of the fact that we do have quite high levels of vaccination in the population, so there may be a false sense of security for some time, and that’s our concern.”

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Gupta joins Professor Adam Finn, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), in cautioning against the June 21 re-opening date.

Finn told Good Morning Britain that it is "unfortunate" people have a date in their head about the end of restrictions and what needs to be done is "understand how things are going and adjust accordingly".

He added: “What we’ve done wrong in the past is left it too late and delayed making decisions, ultimately pushed them back and then ended up with large waves of infection.

“This time around, we should be cautious, wait to see what’s happening, and then let everyone free, if you like, once we know for sure that that’s safe and that we can do that without having another round of lockdowns and so on.”