Boris Johnson and ministers are under fire for sticking to the major easing of Covid restrictions despite concerns over the Indian variant of coronavirus.

Boris Johnson was sticking by plans to allow mixing indoors and greater physical contact in England as scientists warned the strain could be 50% more transmissible than the Kent variety.

Health minister Edward Argar said on Saturday that the Government was acting “coolly” and “calmly” in carrying on with step three in the road map to ending lockdown restrictions.

This article makes note of some restriction easing. Please note these apply to England only. 

Argar was also forced to defend border restrictions, saying it is “impossible to completely hermetically seal” the nation amid criticism of the delay in adding India to the travel red list.

The Prime Minister warned on Friday the variant could cause “serious disruption” to plans to ease the lockdown and may delay the planned ending of all legal restrictions on June 21.

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The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) concluded there is a “realistic possibility” the strain is 50% more transmissible than the one that emerged in Kent.

If the higher transmissibility is confirmed, the experts said moving to step three could “lead to a substantial resurgence of hospitalisations” that is “similar to, or larger than, previous peaks”.

Mr Argar told BBC Breakfast: “All the evidence so far suggests there is no evidence of increased severity of illness or that it evades the vaccine.

“So, at the moment, on the basis of the evidence we are doing the right thing, coolly, calmly continuing with Monday, but keeping everything under review.”

Mr Argar said people should take personal responsibility when deciding whether or not to hug loved ones, when allowed to do so.

“You have to take all the facts into consideration,” he said. “It’s about personal responsibility, it’s about making the right judgment call.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Glasgow's Indian variant outbreak is a warning against 'traffic light' travel

The BMA’s public health medicine committee co-chairman Dr Richard Jarvis urged the public to take a “cautious approach” to social and physical contact.

“With key segments of the population still not vaccinated and clusters of variants, including the rapidly increasing Indian variant, becoming a growing concern, we must approach this next stage of easing lockdown with the utmost caution,” he said.

“It is a real worry that when further measures lift on May 17, the majority of younger people, who are often highly socially mobile and could therefore be most at risk of a more infectious strain, are not yet vaccinated.”

Monday’s easing in England will allow people to socialise indoors in homes, pubs and restaurants, and will permit physical contact between households for the first time in more than a year.

These restrictions apply to England only