The fourth and final stage of England's road map out of Covid restrictions will be delayed by four weeks, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday.
Data emerging from India, where it was first detected, suggests that it is more dangerous than previous variants and causes more severe illness in younger people.
"By being cautious now, we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions of people," Mr Johnson said.
The UK government hopes that the four-week delay will give it time to vaccinate a further 10 million people, a figure which includes many young adults yet to receive their first dose.
There is one problem, however: there isn't a great deal left to be opened up. Indeed, the term "UK lockdown" has been a misnomer since May 17 when indoor hospitality reopened.
While nightclubs and gatherings of more than six people in indoors hospitality will have to wait, much is up and running as normal.
Mask wearing and social distancing have been officially continued, but adherence to both has frayed in recent weeks.
Guidance to work from home remains, but is not mandatory.
Current UK Covid rules
- Pubs, cafes, bars and restaurants are all open although subject to the one-metre rule, and indoor groups of no more than six people
- Hotels, hostels and other holiday accommodation are open
- Cinemas, amusement arcades and bingo halls are open although again subject to restrictions on indoor gatherings
- Museums and galleries are open
- Leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools are open although restrictions apply
- Outdoor contact sports are permitted
- People can travel around the UK freely
- Visits to care homes are allowed
- Wedding receptions and funeral wakes can take place, with the limit of 30 people
- Some outdoor seated and cultural events with large crowds to be allowed come June 21
Covid wedding rules: what will change on June 21
The wedding industry has endured a torrid time due to Covid restrictions for well over a year now.
Prior to June 21 and since the last stage of rules loosening on May 17, up to 30 people including children have been able to attend weddings, with workers not included.
Although the number of guests at weddings and wakes will no longer be limited to 30, other restrictions on these events will remain.
Venues will have to adhere to social distancing and hosts will have to do a risk assessment.
Table service will be required - with six people per table - and no indoor dance floors will be allowed.
A dance floor outside would be advised against but the legal restrictions would only apply to indoor dancing.