FACE masks and working from home could stay in place after June 21, Matt Hancock has hinted.
The Health Secretary opened the door for the Government to continuing issuing strict Covid guidance beyond the end of the month.
Step 4 of Boris Johnson’s roadmap – dubbed Freedom Day – bins all legal restrictions and marks the end of lockdown.
But ministers are preparing to publish advice for businesses that could force Brits to keep abiding by some rules.
Michael Gove’s hotly-awaited Social Distancing Review was due to report at the end of May but has been delayed as is expected to go down to the wire.
Yesterday Mr Hancock said ministers were still thrashing out the post-lockdown blueprint and refused to rule out mask-wearing and working from home.
He told Sky News: “We consider all options and the way we have set this out is as follows.
“There are a series of things at the moment, restrictions on how you can live your life, that we’ve said will be part of Step 4 when we can take Step 4, which include, for instance, the rule of six and the fact there are still some businesses that are closed.
“As well as that we have four reviews into international travel, into certification and into social distancing, for instance, and we are concluding those reviews and doing that work at the same time.
“We haven’t yet set out the approach to social distancing after Step 4 and that is something we are working on with our scientific advisers.
“We will be guided by the science, but ultimately it will be ministers who make these decisions.”
Scientists are limbering up to urge caution as Freedom Day hangs in the balance.
The sudden spread of the Indian “Delta” variant has sparked some experts to call on the PM to press pause on the grand reopening.
A final decision about whether to press ahead will be made on June 14.
Mr Hancock said he was “absolutely open” to a short delay – but Tory MPs are warning him not to “move the goalposts”.
Cambridge University’s Prof Ravi Gupta, who previously warned the UK was heading for a third wave, suggested masks and working from home should stay.
He told BBC Breakfast this morning: “To go completely back to normal may not be in everyone’s best interests… we want this to be the last lockdown that we ever go into, and we do not want to go into a reverse situation which would be much more damaging to the economy, people’s businesses and long-term welfare.”