Boris Johnson has warned the NHS will stay 'at full stretch' for week as he plans to ease lockdown

The NHS is likely to remain "at full stretch" for at least another six weeks, a leading health official said as he warned the Prime Minister against easing lockdown too quickly.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts in England, has written to Boris Johnson calling for a focus on "data, not just dates" when it comes to the Government's approach to the route out of lockdown.

The Prime Minister will scrutinise data this week on coronavirus case numbers, hospital admissions, deaths and the impact of the vaccine rollout as he prepares his plan to reduce restrictions.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Monday February 15, 2021. PA Photo. HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit : Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mr Johnson has said he will aim to give target dates for restrictions being eased when he sets out his plan next Monday, but "won't hesitate" to delay plans if infection rates make it necessary.

It comes as the Chair of the Vaccines Taskforce Clive Dix told Sky News that every adult in the UK could be given both jabs by August or "maybe sooner" in a sign of the optimism around the speed of the vaccine rollout.

A new tool determining those most at risk of severe disease or death has identified 1.7 million additional people in England who should shield - a move that will see 800,000 of those impacted shifted up the priority list for a vaccine.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Hopson 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."

It comes as reports suggested Downing Street is considering a cautious approach to easing the current measures.

The Daily Mail said ministers are weighing up allowing holiday lets to open in time for the Easter weekend and that pubs could open in May, but with only up to two households permitted to mix indoors.

The rule of six would then come into force for mixing inside by June, it added.

Reporting by PA

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