Boris Johnson has shared a sombre warning despite promising all legal lockdown restrictions will end, including mask-wearing, social distancing and nightclub closures will end at Step 4 of the Government’s plan to ease England’s lockdown.

The so-called “freedom day” is expected on July 19, with a decision on whether or not to go ahead being taken a week earlier.

The Prime Minister told a Downing Street press conference: “And we must be honest with ourselves that if we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks, when we will be helped by the arrival of summer, and by the school holidays, then we must ask ourselves ‘when will we be able to return to normal?’

“And to those who say we should delay again – the alternative to that is to open up in winter when the virus will have an advantage, or not at all this year.”

Despite the positive news concerning the end of lockdown, Mr Johnson was eager to stress that the coronavirus pandemic is “far from over”

He told the Downing Street press conference: “We’re seeing rising hospital admissions and we must reconcile ourselves sadly to more deaths from Covid.

“In these circumstances we must take a careful and a balanced decision. And there’s only one reason why we can contemplate going ahead to step four in circumstances where we’d normally be locking down further, and that’s because of the continuing effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.”

Although lockdown is expected to end in England on July 19, Mr Johnson warned there is potential for the daily count of coronavirus cases to be at 50,000 each day by that date.

Professor Chris Whitty warned that the winter “may be very difficult” for the NHS.

England’s chief medical officer told the Downing Street press conference: “The winter is inevitably going to be tricky and this winter the NHS is likely to have both Covid and some resurgence of other respiratory viruses that were suppressed by the degree of lockdown last time round.

“So, I think we should be realistic and this coming winter may be very difficult for the NHS.”