A seven-year-old has died after testing positive for coronavirus, health officials have revealed.
The Government announced 915 more Covid victims across the UK today, taking the total fatality toll past 110,000.
NHS England said the child was one of the 630 patients to succumb to the virus in English hospitals in the past 24 hours.
The youngster had been suffering from an undisclosed, underlying health condition, the NHS said.
Covid-19 is a disease which predominantly preys on the old, frail or already sick, who struggle to mount a strong immune response.
There have only been a handful of deaths of minors during the pandemic, and it’s thought no child who wasn’t already profoundly ill has fallen victim to the illness.
Meanwhile, the 915 Covid victims today marks a fall of more than a quarter compared to last Thursday.
Another 20,634 positive tests were recorded today, which is also down by 25 per cent on last week’s figure.
All key metrics now indicate the darkest days of the winter crisis are behind us, with the number of Covid hospital patients in general beds dropping to its lowest level for a month and in every region.
One in seven people in England had coronavirus antibodies in mid-January
Around one in seven people in England — the equivalent of 8.6million — had coronavirus antibodies by mid-January, a major surveillance study reveals.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) tested the blood of more than 1,300 people across the country and found 15.3 per cent tested positive for antibodies — up from 10 per cent in December. The proportion was as high as 21 per cent in London.
Antibodies are substances made by the immune system in response to infection or vaccinations which defend against viruses.
The presence of them in the blood generally means someone has either partial or total immunity against catching a disease again.
But the figures could easily be an under-estimate because antibody levels fade over time and some people won’t ever develop any.
Scientists believe most people have high levels of antibodies for six months after an infection but to what extend they fade after then remains a mystery because there has not been a long enough time to follow up.
The rates plummeted in London, the South East and other areas that were ravaged before Christmas. Cases in care homes fell by a third, data also showed.
The latest Test and Trace report today claimed positive Covid tests plunged by 41 per cent in the last fortnight, in another sign the crisis is firmly in retreat.
Meanwhile, NHS England statistics showed there were 5,283 patients in ICUs across the country on the last day of January, down slightly on the previous week when there were 5,446 beds in use. It’s the first time ICU capacity has eased since the highly-infectious Kent Covid variant started to spiral out of control in December.
And in another glimmer of hope, the mammoth vaccine roll-out is continuing to pick up pace with almost 475,000 jabs dished out yesterday. And 500,000 vulnerable Britons have now had both doses.
Public Health England data published today revealed 146 out of 149 areas (98 per cent) recorded a drop in weekly positive tests in the seven days to January 31, with cases falling in all English regions for the second week running.
Infection rates plunged by more than 33 per cent in a third of local authorities and fell sharply by over 25 per cent in another 35 places. Cases are also down in every age group.
Encouraging figures also show the number of suspected outbreaks in English care homes dropped by more than a third last week, falling from 504 to 321.
This, combined with the fact 80 per cent of care home residents have now been vaccinated, suggest officials are finally getting a grip on the resurgence of the virus in the sector.
The only three areas in England to see rises in the past week were Torbay, where it increased by 0.9 per cent to 169 per 100,000, Gateshead in Tyne and Wear, where the rate climbed 3.9 per cent to 210 and in Rutland where there was an uniquely large rise. The East Midlands county recorded a 33 per cent increase, with the rate now 230 per 100,000.
It is thought that a Covid outbreak in HMP Stocken in Stretton could be partly to blame. It has not been confirmed how many have tested positive for the coronavirus. The category C men’s prison has around 950 inmates.
Despite the country heading in the right direction, the NHS figures show 23 trusts across England did not have a single spare intensive care bed on January 31. These included University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest trusts in England, along with Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.
But the problem was not confined to the Midlands, as major trusts all over the country — including in Merseyside, London, Derbyshire and the home counties — also reported having no spare critical care capacity. Even hospitals in the South West, which had managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic throughout 2020, were seeing their ICUs pushed to the brink, with Portsmouth Hospitals University National Health Service Trust and the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust recording 100 per cent occupancy.
Despite lockdown starting to bring Britain’s winter wave under control, ICUs nationally are still almost 70 per cent busier than they have been at any time over the past five years. For comparison, there were 3,034 critically-ill patients at the same time last winter, and the average over the last four years stood at 3,183.
There are still about 35,000 people in hospital with Covid across the UK, which is still far higher than the 20,000 at the peak last spring. About 3,700 virus patients are fighting for their lives in ICU, compared to around 3,300 during the darkest days last April.