The prime minister has been facing mounting pressure amid surging Covid-19 cases fuelled by the Indian Delta variant.
Dr Raghib Ali, an honorary consultant in acute medicine at the Oxford University hospitals NHS trust, told the Guardian: ‘We are much busier now in emergency departments than at the peaks of either the first or second wave.
‘In other parts of the hospital we are catching up with a lot of elective work because of the backlog, so for both of those reasons it’s a very bad time to have additional pressure from Covid.
‘Before vaccination, all a delay did was push cases into the future, but we can vaccinate millions of people in those four weeks and that will substantially reduce the size of the peak hospitalisations because of that increased coverage.’
The PM, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove have all reportedly signed off on the delay.
And data set to be released later today is expected to show how thousands of the most vulnerable will be saved from a trip to the hospital.
Experts say the extra time will allow for nine million more Brits to be fully vaccinated.
It comes after a Public Health England study found that those with just one dose were only 33% protected from the stronger Delta variant, while people who have had two jabs are around 81% protected.
Professor Rowland Kao of the University of Edinburgh added: ‘There are a couple of things that are happening that should make a big difference in the next few weeks.
‘First of all, vaccinations. Second, and slightly more subtly, schools will be out soon, and every week closer to that means less mixing in schools and more people likely to be off work, both reducing transmission.
‘Both of those things, vaccinations and schools, means that the delay has real benefit right now.’
Some are still advocating for Freedom Day to go ahead as planned, citing the economic damage being inflicted on businesses.
Professor Robert Dingwall, who sits on a series of coronavirus advisory committees, told the Telegraph: ‘It is extremely damaging to business confidence, the economy, morale – especially since there isn’t really a clear justification for it.
‘What we are seeing is the beginning of what endemic Covid looks like and we should be unlocking and living with that.
‘I have been saying for 10 days now the only thing that would persuade me is a significant increase in intensive care admissions, and that is not happening.’
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