United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed back plans on Monday to lift many of the country's remaining COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, delaying the full reopening by a month.
The decision to pause the full reopening of pubs, restaurants, and nightclubs comes amid a rise in cases and as the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, which initially emerged in India, circulates around the UK.
The opening, which was initially set for June 21, will now be delayed until July 19.
"I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer," Johnson said during a news conference, calling the decision "a very difficult choice," but adding it was important to give the country's NHS "a few more crucial weeks to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them."
"As things stand, and on the evidence that I can see right now, I'm confident that we will not need more than four weeks," Johnson added. "But now is the time to ease off the accelerator."
Johnson said the country will aim to vaccinate all adults with at least one dose by July 19. So far, 79.2% of adults 18 and older have received at least one dose and 56.9% are fully vaccinated, according to the UK's government site.
Currently, the UK is in Step 3 of its reopening plan which allows restaurants and pubs have been allowed to open with capacity restrictions and UK residents to travel internationally, according to the government. The country has been under varying degrees of a strict lockdown since January.
When the country reaches Step 4, restrictions on social contact and large events are expected to be lifted. In the meantime, Johnson said group sizes will be increased for events like weddings.
The decision to push back the reopening will be reviewed on June 28, Reuters reported, but a spokesman for Johnson told the wire service that was considered unlikely.
The delay comes as international travel restrictions have begun to loosen around the globe and several European countries have started welcoming U.S. travelers, including Croatia, Italy, Greece, Spain, and France.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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