The final stage of easing lockdown restrictions in England is to be delayed until July 19, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.
It means most remaining curbs on social contact will continue beyond June 21, when they had been due to be lifted.
The limit on wedding guest numbers will be removed but venues will still have to adhere to other rules.
Johnson said there would be a review after two weeks and he was “confident” the delay would not need to be longer than four weeks.
“We will monitor the position every day and if, after two weeks, we have concluded that the risk has diminished then we reserve the possibility of proceeding to step four, and a full opening, sooner,” he told a Downing Street news conference.
Scientists advising the government had warned of a “significant resurgence” in people needing hospital treatment for COVID-19 if stage four of easing the lockdown went ahead on June 21. It comes amid rising cases, driven by the more transmissible Delta variant, which was first identified in India.
Johnson said going ahead with stage four on June 21 would mean “a real possibility” of the virus outrunning the vaccines, leading to thousands more deaths which could otherwise have been avoided.
The delay would give the NHS “a few more crucial weeks” to get people vaccinated, he said, adding that while the link between infections and hospital admissions had been “weakened” it had not been “severed”. (BB