On Monday Boris Johnson announced plans to remove most coronavirus regulations in England in two weeks, including an end to the mask mandate and social distancing rules.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said on Wednesday that infections may rise to more than 100,000 cases per day in August, despite millions of people having received two doses of a COVID vaccine.
But business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government was right to push ahead with its plans, telling Sky News that “we can’t simply lock down society forever”.
Watch: Cases could double but Sajid Javid defends end of COVID rules
He said: "We have always said infections will go up…
"What I hear is that we can't simply lock down society forever.
"It is a balancing act. We have to decided what to do and I think this is the best course of action.”
Javid also announced this week that self-isolation rules are set to change – meaning those who have been double-jabbed will not need to stay at home for 10 days after coming into contact with a positive case.
However, the change will not come in until 16 August, and Kwarteng conceded that having the self-isolation period still in place after the end of other restrictions is “not a perfect solution”.
Asked about the business concerns, he said: “You can’t have it both ways. On the one hand we’re saying we want to reopen, but we’re giving a measure of precaution in terms of delaying the lifting of self-isolation restrictions.
“It’s a balance, it’s not a perfect solution. But on the one hand we’re saying that we can reopen, and on the other we’re saying that we want to give a little bit more protection in terms of the self-isolation rules.”
Meanwhile, a new study suggested that people are likely to take the dangers of coronavirus less seriously after restrictions are finally lifted.
Psychologists believe lockdowns during the pandemic successfully convinced the public of the severity of the COVID threat.
The findings, based on two surveys during 2020 and published on Wednesday in the Royal Society Open Science journal, could mean that scrapping restrictions leads to people ignoring any remaining public health guidance, which could include things like wearing face masks in crowded places or washing hands.
Lead author Dr Colin Foad, from Cardiff University, said: “In order to try and keep public support for lockdowns high, various strategies have been tried by the government, including reminding people that they and their loved ones are at risk from COVID-19.
“However, we find that most people’s personal sense of threat does not relate to their support for restrictions.”
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