Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the emergence of new coronavirus variants posed “greatest risk” to easing in England.
Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast: “There is no doubt that a new variant poses the greatest risk. We have this variant that was first seen in India – what is called the Indian variant – we saw how it grew.
“We invest a lot of resources to ensure that anyone who receives this particular variant receives additional support and intervention to make sure it is not passed on.
“Fortunately, however, there is no evidence that the vaccine won’t work against it, either.”
Mr Hancock said the government would urge people to take “personal responsibility” as lockdown restrictions in England are eased next week.
Mr Hancock said ministers would publish clear guidelines for close face-to-face contact.
“It depends on the circumstances of the people. We will change the rules so that it is much more about people taking personal responsibility and exercising common sense according to their circumstances,” he told Sky News.
“We will be very clear about the risks. People understand the risks – we know that – and we will make that very, very clear, and then people can take their own personal responsibility. “
He added, “Grandparents can sometimes be around their grandchildren for the first time in over a year, but take into account the individual risk of developing the disease, which varies according to the circumstances.”