A FOUR-WEEK delay to the last lifting of lockdown restrictions will have a big effect on pubs and planned events around Swindon.

Next Monday would have seen mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines dropped so that drinkers and diners could fill boozers and restaurants to their maximum capacity and indoor venues could host parties and music nights for the first time in over a year.

But a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations around the country caused by a Delta variant which is more infectious than any other kind of Covid has pushed the date back to July 19.

This extra time will allow for people to receive their first or second vaccine jab and build up immunity to the deadly disease.

For now, social distancing remains in place and indoor events are strictly limited to 30 people, except for weddings and wakes.

In Old Town, Andy Mercer decided not to reopen his pub The Beehive in April because its cosy confines would limit customer capacity too much if social distancing measures had to be followed.

So he had pinned his hopes on June 21 to allow every seat to be filled and make the place financially viable again, but it was not to be.

However, despite news of the delay, he will still welcome back regulars next Monday, though there will be fewer of them allowed in at a time than he had expected.

Mr Mercer said: “I’ll just go for it anyway and take the heat for a month or so. It’s a shame but I can get two dozen people inside if groups have to stay apart and it’ll be nice to see people again.

“The pub hasn’t opened since October and it’s not been that difficult since then, luckily, it feels like an extended holiday.

“I don’t have a huge amount of faith in the government but as more people get vaccinated, the chance of another lockdown becomes less and less.

“I would urge people to have the vaccine, then we can get back to normal.”

Leanne Bignold has spent the last few weeks helping her daughter Abby prepare for Nova Hreod Academy’s prom at the Hilton on July 2 but now expects the event to be called off.

Leanne said: “We’re absolutely gutted because she originally believed it wasn’t going to go ahead and had then started getting really excited about it.

“We had short notice that it was going ahead so we rushed around trying to get a dress, which was difficult because they were in short supply around town as everyone else was trying to get one at the same time.

“We ended up going to Southampton to find one that she liked and didn’t need alterations.

“Abby worked so hard through lockdown and all the Year 11s have had a lot of stress put on them at a young age, so this delay is disheartening after all the class and exam-style assessments they’ve done

“It’s frustrating that the cases are rising again but then, the last restriction to be lifted is not much different to how things are now.

“Seeing pictures of people at pubs watching the football and cricket when private indoor functions can’t go ahead with more than 30 people seems unfair.

“Unfortunately, people are now living their lives like they were before the pandemic so I don’t think the delay will change the cases rising.”

By July 19, it is hoped that everyone over 50, every vulnerable person, every frontline key worker, and everyone over 40 who had their first jab before mid-May would have had both doses of the vaccine.

And every adult over the age of 18 should receive their first dose by July 19 - and those aged 23 and 24 will be able to book their jab from Tuesday.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “We know the remorseless logic of exponential growth. Though the link between hospitalisation and death has been weakened, the number of people in intensive care is rising.”

“By being cautious now, we have the chance of saving thousands of lives and vaccinating millions more people. We will be in a far stronger position to keep hospitalisations down and complete our cautious but irreversible road map to freedom.”

There were 22 new coronavirus cases confirmed in Swindon within 24 hours and 80 in the last seven days, which is 23 more than the week before.

Swindon’s infection rate as of June 9 is 24.3 cases per 100,000 population.