Four weeks were needed between unlocking steps to assess the impact of relaxing rules on case numbers with an additional week’s notice for businesses, he added.
However, he said the public could be “reassured” by data on hospitalisations relating to the new Delta virus variant, which show very low numbers of people who have received two doses of a vaccine.
“The jabs are working,” he told MPs yesterday (Monday 7 June), announcing that 76% of UK adults have been vaccinated at least once and 52% have had two doses.
Breaking the link
The vaccine rollout was succeeding at "breaking the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths, a link that was rock solid back in the autumn,” he said.
Hancock said: "Despite the rise in cases, hospitalisations have been broadly flat. The majority of people in hospital with Covid appear to be those who haven't had the vaccine at all."
Of the 12,383 new Covid cases as of 3 June, 464 went on to present at emergency care and 126 were admitted to hospital.
Of those hospital admissions, 83 were unvaccinated, 28 had one dose of vaccine and three had both doses, Hancock said.
The Delta variant - also known as the Indian variant - now makes up the “vast majority” of new infections, the health secretary added.
Hancock encouraged people to get their second doses after research found one dose provides lower protection against the Delta variant compared to previous dominant strains.
What’s more, all adults aged 25 to 29 in England will be able to book their first dose from today (Tuesday 8 June).
“Nobody wants our freedoms to be restricted a day longer than is necessary,” Hancock added.
Freedom would return “one day soon,” the minister said, acknowledging restrictions had “not been easy” for business operators and the nation’s mental health.
The Government will announce a decision on Monday 14 June – one week prior to any changes coming into effect.
For many nightlife operators, this decision will signal when they can reopen their venues for the first time since the start of the pandemic restrictions in March 2020.
Pub operators are also hopeful they will be able to do away with restrictions such as mandated table service and the ‘one metre plus’ social distancing requirement.