UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives an update on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic during a virtual press conference at 10 Downing Street in central London, UK on March 18, 2021.

Tolga Akmen

Boris Johnson is expected to announce a delay of up to four weeks in the next phase of England’s reopening on Monday amid a surge in the Delta variant of Covid-19, first discovered in India.

The rules on the use of face masks, limiting the number of people who can meet indoors and outdoors, and closing nightclubs and similar venues should be lifted on June 21, but UK media reports suggest this is now up July could be postponed 19. Currently, gatherings are limited to six people indoors and 30 people outdoors.

People are also reportedly advised to continue working from home whenever possible.

New figures from Public Health England show that 42,323 cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus have now been confirmed across the UK, a 240% increase from last week, while the country’s transmission rate is at its highest level since January.

More than 70 million doses of vaccine have been given across the UK, with around 80% of the country now receiving at least one dose. However, a PHE paper from late May showed that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were only 33% effective against the Delta variant after a single injection.

Johnson told Sky News on Saturday that he was ready to “be careful” to avoid reinstating lockdown measures in the future.

When the fourth and final stage of the government’s “roadmap” from the lockdown is implemented, all legal restrictions on social contacts will be lifted. In phase three on May 17, indoor restaurants and entertainment venues as well as domestic overnight stays and international travel were reopened, which are subject to a traffic light system.

All three previous phases of the roadmap, which gradually withdrew the strict nationwide lockdown measures from mid-December to March, have progressed as planned.

However, investors didn’t seem too concerned about the possibility the restrictions could stay in place for another month, as the UK’s FTSE 100 was up about 0.5% by late morning.

“Leisure businesses could be hardest hit by a delay in the UK lockdown easing, as it requires social distancing rules to continue, which means pubs and restaurants cannot operate at full capacity,” said Russ Mold, Investment Director at the British stockbroker AJ Glocke.

“However, risk doesn’t seem to bother investors too much, perhaps because speculation suggests a delay of just four weeks, albeit during a seasonally busy time.”