Council leaders have urged residents and businesses in Bolton to remain patient following the government's decision to delay Step 4 of the roadmap for lifting coronavirus restrictions.

Last night the Prime Minister confirmed that the final step of the roadmap, which will see all legal limits of social contact removed, has been pushed back until July 19.

The move comes in response to a rise in cases of the Delta variant across England and is designed to give more time for adults to get their first and second doses of the vaccine.

Bolton was among the first areas to experience a spike in this more infectious variant, however, cases are now coming down in the borough.

Outdoor gatherings are still limited to 30 people and the rule of six applies to meeting indoors.

Despite the setback, some restrictions will change from the original date of Monday, June 21, including

• Attendance limits for weddings, civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and commemorative events will be determined by the capacity of the venue

• There will be some change to national guidance on care home visits

• Up to 30 children can take overnight trips with out-of-school groups

• Nationally, pilots for large events will continue

Local businesses who have been adversely affected by the delay can access advice and guidance from Business Bolton, the council said.

Bolton’s director of public health, Dr Helen Lowey, said: “In Bolton we know first-hand how quickly the Delta variant can spread through communities.

“While we have made some positive steps to bring down infection rates, we are still among the areas with the highest case rates.

“Everyone in Bolton should continue to follow the Step 3 restrictions of the national roadmap and keep following the principals of hands, face, space and letting fresh air in.

“To help drive down cases, everyone should take regular tests at home and please take up both doses of the vaccine when offered.”

The Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh, said: “I share the frustration of Bolton residents at this delay and fully understand the disappointment of our local hospitality venues who were counting on reopening at full capacity from next week.

“We have been fortunate in Bolton to have received that extra support of surge vaccinations and testing, and the way we have responded as a borough is now being presented nationally as best practice.

“It is becoming apparent that other areas now experiencing a rise in cases need that extra time to respond as we did.

“While my personal preference would have been to press ahead with the roadmap, I do fully acknowledge that this extension will see many more second and first doses administered, which will ultimately protect us all.”