Coronavirus infection rates in the UK are heading in the wrong direction at just the wrong moment for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In the coming days he will thrash out with ministers whether to lift pandemic restrictions as planned on June 21, with an announcement due a week before. Businesses are demanding it, as are members of his Conservative Party, for whom the date has become a totemic symbol of life returning to normal.

Yet Covid-19 cases are again on the rise, fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant first identified in India, which is now dominant in Britain. Cases of the strain confirmed in laboratories more than doubled this week to 12,431, while early evidence suggests it may be linked to a higher risk of hospitalisation...

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