BORIS Johnson will review lockdown again on June 28 - and could relax the rules as early as July 5.
The PM announced tonight that the final step in his roadmap to freedom will be delayed until July 19.
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But he's vowed to keep an eye on surging cases and hospitalisations - and if possible will unlock earlier.
It comes as:
However, it's thought Mr Johnson is unlikely to end restrictions any earlier than mid-July.
Tonight, he warned: "As we've always known, and as the February roadmap predicted, this opening up has inevitably been accompanied by more infections and more hospitalisations, because we must be clear we cannot simply eliminate Covid.
"We must learn to live with it.
"With every day that goes by, we are better protected by vaccinations and better able to live with the disease."
And he said health chiefs and politicians are "so concerned" by the spread of the mutation.
"Cases are growing by about 64 per cent per week on week, and the worst affected areas are doubling every week," he said.
"The average number of people admitted increased 50 per cent week on week, and 61 per cent in the north-west.
"It may be the shape of things to come."
'SO CONCERNED ABOUT MUTATION'
Cases of Covid are continuing to surge, fuelled by the mutant Indian - or Delta - variant.
The number of people testing positive has rocketed by a third in a week, with 7,742 more infections reported today, along with three more fatalities.
In addition, 1,089 people are in hospital with the virus - with 161 in ventilated beds.
Mr Johnson will use the extension to get 10million second jabs into arms, extending maximum protection to 75 per cent of Brits.
About 44 per cent of UK adults are not yet fully vaccinated against Covid.
More than two million of that number are aged 50 and over.
At the current rate of rollout, a delay of four weeks would mean another nine million people could have their second doses
Public Health England research found that a single dose of the jab was just 33 per cent effective against the Indian mutation.
Protection ramps up significantly, to around 81 per cent, with a second dose.
As a result of the delay, pubs will likely be restricted to table service, with the return of propping up the bar still some way off.
Meanwhile, theatres and cinemas will continue to be restricted to just 50 per cent capacity, clubs will remain closed, and people will be told to continue working from home if they can.
However, to the joy of couples who have faced repeated delays to much longed-for marriages, the traditional big white wedding is finally back from June 21.
Venues will decide caps on numbers. Currently, just 30 people can attend a service.
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But dancing is out for all but the bride and groom in bad news for embattled wedding DJs.
And masks must be worn by guests as they moved around a venue.
Table numbers will also be limited to six.