It is currently "impossible" to know if England will be able to remove all coronavirus restrictions on 21 June, the business secretary has told Sky News.
Kwasi Kwarteng said a final decision on the proposed easing of measures will not be made until 14 June, despite frustration among hospitality firms still not sure if they will be able to reopen.
Cases of the Indian COVID variant have doubled in the space of a week in England, prompting fears that PM Boris Johnson’s roadmap for unlocking will be thrown off course.
Mr Kwarteng said that although the uncertainty was "frustrating", it is "impossible for anyone to know what the situation will be like in a week or two weeks’ time".
"We’ll be looking at the data, we’ve said repeatedly that we won’t make a final decision about the 21st of June until the 14th of June, a week before the established date," he told Sky News.
"So I can’t guarantee one thing or the other."
Mr Kwarteng did not rule out keeping businesses closed in the areas that are worst impacted by the Indian coronavirus variant.
Asked whether there could be a return to local restrictions, Mr Kwarteng said ministers were considering "all options".
On Thursday, Imperial College London’s Professor Neil Ferguson had warned that the full reopening of society on 21 June "hangs in the balance" – adding that the data collected in the next two to three weeks will be "critical".
Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said she agreed with his appraisal during a Downing Street news briefing later in the day.
Warning that the most recent data is worrying, she added: "The roadmap works on four principles to go forward, so it’s on the cases, hospitalisations, the effectiveness of the vaccine programme and then new variants.
"So, in many ways we’re looking at the first part and the last part."
Although COVID infection rates have risen across most age groups and regions, Public Health England said: "Encouragingly the number in hospitals across the country remains low."
The hospital admission rate for COVID-19 stood at 0.79 per 100,000 people in the week to 23 May, compared with 0.75 per 100,000 in the previous week.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also said there were "early signs" that coronavirus rates in Bolton, one of the hotspots for the Indian variant, were starting to "cap out".
Sky News political correspondent Joe Pike said the concerns "will be a worry for those in the arts, sport and hospitality industries ahead of 21 June".
When announcing his roadmap out of lockdown, the prime minister said he would follow "data, not dates".
Data suggests that as many as three-quarters of new cases are now of the Indian mutation, prompting the prime minister to warn that the final stage of easing lockdown in England may have to wait.
However, Sky’s science correspondent Thomas Moore has said that the data provided by PHE isn’t all bad.
He explained: "Firstly, two doses of the vaccine are really effective.
"Analysis of 5,600 cases of the Indian variant shows 60% were unvaccinated. Just 3% of them were fully vaccinated.
"Of the 43 people who needed hospital admission, 67% were unvaccinated, just 2% had received both doses.
And finally, eight of the 12 people who died were unvaccinated. All the more reason to get the jab."