THE Government should be “cautious” about fully lifting lockdown measures in England due to the rise in cases of the Indian 'Delta' variant which could lead to hospitals being overwhelmed, experts have warned.

Scientists are warning that hospitals could be overwhelmed by cases if the opening goes ahead - with all social distancing laws scrapped and normality finally resuming.

The warning comes despite more than 40 million people having had their first jab - 78 per cent of the country - and 29m fully vaccinated - 55 per cent of the country - and hundreds of thousands of people getting vaccinated every day, with the opening up to over 25s of the vaccine seeing millions rush to get the jab.

The overwhelming majority of cases of the Indian Delta variant are in people who have not been vaccinated, with the variant accounting for 96 per cent of all new cases.

There are 1,058 people across the UKin hospital with Covid currently, way below the January peak of 39,249. In Bradford Teaching Hospitals there are only 11 people in hospital with Covid, and at Airedale the number is just three.

The Government has said it is following the science and doesn't want to "trip up", but Labour has slammed Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Cabinet for "failing to listen" to advice from Sage and allowing the Indian variant into the country.

Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the Nervtag advisory group, said that it was a “disappointing setback” that the Indian variant - now being called Delta - seemed even more successful than the previous strains.

He said: “This Delta variant seems to be about 60 per cent more transmissible than the Kent (Alpha) variant.

“So it really has gone up another gear and that means that we really have to double down and not lose all the advantage that has been gained by the massive effort that has been put in so far.”

Professor Tom Solomon, director of the Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool, said the country could not afford a “bad decision” on unlocking.

He said while vaccines were having a “massive impact”, opening up could lead to hospitals being overwhelmed.

Prof Solomon added: “If you look at hospitalisations, they are doubling – the numbers are small but they are doubling approximately every seven days – and so if you then suddenly say we are going to open up completely we may end up with the hospitals overwhelmed again.

“So I think, unfortunately, we are just going to have to maybe give it another month until we have so many more people vaccinated.”

Their comments come as Boris Johnson looks set to delay the final lifting of restrictions in England following another sharp rise in cases of the Indian Delta variant.

The Telegraph has reported on its front page today that Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown on June 21 is "off" and delayed by four weeks.

Ministers are considering putting back the relaxing of controls as they race to roll out the vaccine to younger age groups who have taken up the vaccine offer at a rapid rate.

A final decision is expected to be taken on Sunday ahead of a formal announcement by the Prime Minister at a news conference the following day.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said it was “key” that the country did not trip up at the final hurdle and that restrictions will be lifted in “a way that is safe”.

He said: “The point we’ve made right at the start of this progressive easing of lockdown is that we’ll be guided by the scientific evidence.

“This will be based on data rather than just on dates.

“And we want to make sure that we continue with the speedy rollout and vaccination process.

“But ultimately we do, all of us, want to get back to the normal way of living and have these restrictions lifted. But it’s really, really key that we don’t trip up, potentially at the final hurdle.

“And so we want to ease these restrictions in a way that is safe.”

A delay – potentially to July 19 – will come as a bitter blow to many businesses, particularly in the hospitality and leisure sectors, which had been pinning their hopes on a full summer reopening to help recoup some of the losses of the past year.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the country was now paying the price for the refusal of ministers to heed the warnings of its own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

“Any delay in rolling back restrictions would be a huge blow for many families and businesses across the country. The fault for this lies squarely with Conservative ministers,” he said.

“Despite warnings from Labour, Sage and others they continued with a reckless border policy that allowed the Delta variant to reach the UK and spread.

“Now the British people look set to have to pay the price.”