Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden (not pictured) ahead of the G7 summit, at Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain June 10, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool

Prime minister Boris Johnson is set to delay lockdown lifting to July 19 after cases of the Delta variant, first identified in India, rose in the country, The Sun reported on Friday (June 11).

Under plans that will be announced on Monday, a two week review will be included meaning Covid-19 restrictions could be dropped on July 5 if hospitalizations are low, the newspaper reported.

“We have to be really careful. We had a very big opening on the 17th of May where people could meet friends indoors, in a restaurant, in a pub, and socialise indoors as well,” Covid-19 vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told Times Radio early on Friday.

“And I think it’s important that we look at the data very carefully over this weekend and then share it with the nation.”

Total British cases of the Delta variant, first identified in India, have jumped by 29,892 to 42,323, Public Health England said on Friday, adding that the variant currently accounted for over 90 per cent of new Covid-19 cases.

A top British epidemiologist said on Wednesday that the Delta variant is believed to be 60% more transmissible than the previously dominant Alpha variant. Some scientists have urged a delay to restrictions being eased so more people can receive a second vaccine dose.

A widely watched prevalence survey showed that the number of people with Covid-19 was estimated to have risen in the week to June 5, though not as sharply as the week before.

Britain on Friday reported 8,125 new Covid-19 cases, the highest daily total since February, adding that the reproduction “R” number and daily growth rates were also higher in the latest estimates, suggesting the pandemic was growing exponentially.

Johnson has said that an increase in cases was always expected after the most recent stage of lockdown easing in May, but the key to whether Step 4 can proceed on June 21 will be the extent to which Britain’s vaccine rollout has broken the link between cases and deaths.

Britain’s total Covid-19 death toll is over 127,000 but the number of daily deaths have fallen following a third national lockdown and a rapid vaccine rollout. More than three-quarters of adults have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

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