Boris Johnson is expected to announce a delay to the final stage of his lockdown roadmap this evening.

The government had planned to lift the final restrictions on June 21 at the earliest, but that date now looks set to be delayed for four weeks to July 19.

The prime minister will hold a press conference from Downing Street at 6pm tonight, at which he is expected to confirm the plans amid rising case rates and hospital numbers.

Mr Johnson will be joined by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

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More time for vaccination

He is expected to tell tonight's briefing that a delay to the final stage of the roadmap will allow more time for people to receive a second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

While the UK's vaccine rollout is estimated to have saved more than 14,000 lives so far, just under half of all adults in England are yet to be vaccinated fully.

Health minister Edward Argar said that if the June 21 lockdown easing was delayed for one month, another 10 million second coronavirus vaccine doses could be given across the UK.

The NHS is currently offering first doses to adults over the age of 25.

Delta variant driving rise in infection rates

The Delta variant of coronavirus, which originated in India, is driving the rise in infections and case rates, and is now responsible for up to 96 per cent of new Covid-19 cases, Public Health England said on Friday.

Experts estimate that the Delta variant has a 60% increased risk of household transmission compared with the Alpha variant, which originated in Kent last year.

While this variant now accounts for the overwhelming majority of new cases of Covid-19, Public Health England said it is “encouraging” that the increase is “not yet accompanied by a similarly large increase in hospitalisations”, adding that the vaccination programme is continuing to reduce the impact of the variant among sections of the public where there is high take-up of both doses.

Current lockdown measures to stay in place

Mr Johnson is expected to appeal to the public to show patience at today's Downing Street briefing.

A delay to lockdown lifting will mean that the current limits on social gatherings stay in place.

Currently, six people or two households can meet indoors, while outdoor gatherings are limited to 30 people.

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Nightclubs will have to stay closed, while large events will still be constrained to venue capacity limits.

People will be encouraged to keep up social distancing and working from home.

Potential changes to wedding limits

However, there are reports that a limit on the number of people allowed to attend weddings will be eased further.

Minister Mr Argar said couples waiting to wed are 'very much' in the mind of the prime minister at the moment.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Argar said: "There will be a lot of couples who planned, hoped, to do it, put a line through it, done it again and rescheduled again.

“Not only does that cost money, but emotionally that is incredibly difficult for couples who want to have their special day and want to get married.

“Again, I’m not going to pre-empt what the Prime Minister will say later, but I know that weddings and people in that particular situation will be very much in his mind at the moment, it’s one of the things he has been looking at.”

Tory rebellion

The delay has been met with fury by some Tory MPs, with a vote this month expected to lead to a possible Conservative backbench rebellion.

Conservative MP Peter Bone said a delay to the lifting of restrictions should not happen “without really good reason” and that currently he “can’t see the evidence why we should be postponing our freedom”.

He said there should only be restrictions “if there is a very clear danger to society”.

Asked if he would vote against a delay in Parliament, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What I would do is listen to what the Prime Minister says, listen to the arguments, and if I’m not convinced that these restrictions are necessary then I would of course vote against it and I hope every member of the House of Commons will listen to the argument and make their minds up.”

The move comes as a huge setback to many businesses – particularly in the hospitality sector – which had pinned their hopes on a full summer reopening to recoup some of the losses of the past year.

Boris Johnson is also due to address the issue of support for businesses when he sets out his plans tonight, according to Mr Argar.