The UK government has announced that Step 4 of its roadmap out of lockdown will be delayed by up to four weeks due to rising cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19, although the Wimbledon tennis finals and UEFA Euro 2020 matches at Wembley will go ahead at increased capacity as part of the ongoing Events Research Programme.

The government had announced in February that June 21 would be the earliest date to enter Step 4 of the roadmap, which would see no legal limits on social contact. Step 3 came into effect in mid-May and allows large outdoor events to go ahead with up to 10,000 people or 25% seated capacity, whichever is lower.

Step 4 will no longer come into effect on June 21 and has been delayed by up to four weeks to July 19. The government hopes that by this date, all adults will have been offered a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and two thirds of all adults will have been offered two doses.

Despite the delay of England’s full reopening, pilot events for the wider return of fans will continue to go ahead. Wembley staged its first Euro 2020 match on Sunday as England beat Croatia 1-0 and the stadium will continue to operate at around 22,500 capacity for England’s group matches against Scotland on Friday and Czech Republic next Tuesday.

Wembley’s first Round of 16 match on June 26 is also set to go ahead with this capacity but around 40,000 fans will be permitted thereafter. This will mean that Wembley will be around half full for its second Round of 16 fixture on June 29, as well as the two semi-finals and the final.

Meanwhile, Wimbledon will begin on June 28 with an initial 50% capacity allowed and this will rise to 100% for the singles finals. The next phase of the ERP will also include a number of trials of indoor events across the cultural sector.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We want to gather further evidence on how we can open up all big events safely, and for good. The expansion of trials of the NHS App and Lateral Flow Testing will mean that bigger crowds will be able to attend a limited number of major sporting and cultural events early this summer as part of our Events Research Programme. In the next few weeks this means more fans enjoying the Euros and Wimbledon, and some of our biggest cultural and sports events.”

It has also been reported that Formula 1’s British Grand Prix from July 16-18 is being considered as an additional test event for the wider return of fans. Golf’s Open Championship will take place at Royal St George’s in Kent during the same week and organisers are set to confirm ticketing arrangements shortly.

The pilot events will continue to trial the use of COVID-19 status certification, which was required for Sunday’s match at Wembley.

The government’s announcement to delay Step 4 has led to trade groups, companies, venues and individuals expressing concerns that the extension on restrictions will lead to closures and job losses unless extra support is allocated.

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