Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that the final stage of ending the lockdown will be delayed - saying the decision will prevent "thousands more deaths".

It had been hoped that almost all remaining lockdown rules would be scrapped on June 21. But they are now likely to continue for another four weeks, until July 19.

This includes rules banning groups of more than six people from meeting indoors, including in private homes or premises such as pubs, if they come from more than two households.

READ MORE: Live updates as Boris Johnson confirms lockdown delayed until July 19

But speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said: "I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer."

The delay would "give the NHS that extra time" to get more people vaccinated, he said.

However, there was good news for people hoping to get married, because some of the existing tough restrictions for weddings will be lifted on June 21 as planned.

The delay is caused by the spread of the Delta variant of Covid (sometimes known as the Indian variant), which has led to soaring Covid-19 cases.

The Government says that by July 19, everyone over 40 will have been offered two doses of a vaccine, and everyone aged 18 and over will have been offered at least one dose.

And this means that enough people will be protected from the virus - even if it spreads rapidly.

Mr Johnson said:

The Prime Minister had been hoping to proceed with what he calls "step four" of his roadmap for ending lockdown, but said this would be delayed because of the spread of the Delta variant of Covid, also known as the B.1.61.2.

Scientists believe this variant is between 40 and 80% more transmissible than other strains, and it's led to a huge increase in cases - with 8,000 infections every day, the highest since February.

In around one third of the country, Covid rates are doubling every week. And there's a 15% increase every week in the number of people admitted to hospital - but this rises to 66% in the North West of England.

Mr Johnson said this all means that it the UK went ahead with step 4 of his roadmap, there would be a huge rise in the number of people needing hospital treatment.

But he said thousands more deaths can be prevented by waiting for more people to be vaccinated.

He said: "I'm afraid numbers in intensive care are rising."

The Prime Minister said: "We've obviously faced a very difficult choice."

But he admitted: "There is a real possibility that the virus will outrun the vaccines and that thousands more deaths will ensue that otherwise would be avoided."

As well as continuing the "rule of six", the advice to work from home will still apply.

However, there will be some changes on July 21.

Current rules banning more than 30 people from attending a wedding, wedding reception or civil partnership will be scrapped.

Instead, the rule will be that the number of people who can attend is based on how many people the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place.

In other words, if the venue can safely fit more than 30 people - perhaps far more - then more than 30 people can attend. The current limit of 30 people for an outdoors wedding will also be scrapped.

However, guests will have to obey social distancing rules, including having no more than six people at a table.

Smaller weddings with 30 people or fewer will not have to follow such strict social distancing rules.

There will also continue to be a ban on singing and dancing at weddings.

The Government will also scrap a rule which says care home residents who take part in an outside visit, including a stay in hospital, automatically need to self-isolate for 14 days when they return to the care home.

And it will go ahead with plans to allow the public attend some major events, as part of a pilot scheme. These include sporting and cultural events, and more details will be published over the next few days.

Mr Johnson stressed that no restrictions that have previously been scrapped will be re-introduced.

In an announcement that will be controversial, the Government does not intend to extend the current furlough scheme.

Plans to make businesses contribute to the cost of wages for furloughed staff from July 1 will go ahead - even though the lockdown is lasting longer than expected.

The Government will need to hold a debate and vote in Parliament in order to extend the current restrictions. Laws allowing Ministers to impose rules are currently due to expire on June 30.

In positive news, a study by Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that two doses of vaccine are highly effective against the Delta variant.