At the start of the pandemic last March, Boris Johnson stood gravely in front of television cameras and told Britain the harsh reality. "Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time,” he said.

If that was the moment that brought home the gravity of the unfolding crisis, next month’s planned lifting of coronavirus restrictions will require the U.K. prime minister to level with the public again. More loss of life is inevitable, and the issue is just how many more deaths will ensue as collateral damage to rescue the economy.

After inoculating a larger proportion of people than any other major economy, Britain is emerging as a test case in Europe as it attempts to draw a line under COVID-19. Levels of infections are now back to their highest since February and the pound is taking a hit on concern a recovery may be slipping further into the future.