UK’s daily Covid infections fall 16% in a week to 1,979 and deaths stay steady as another five victims are recorded
- Department of Health statistics showed 1,979 infections were registered in the last 24 hours, up eight per cent
- There were also five Covid deaths which was one more than at the same time last week, figures showed
- England today basked in new-found freedoms as more restrictions were eased to allow pubs and restaurants
- Boris Johnson has, however, called for Brits to proceed with a ‘heavy dose of caution’ due to the Indian strain
Britain’s daily coronavirus cases have fallen by 16 per cent in a week while deaths remain steady, official figures revealed today.
Department of Health statistics showed 1,979 infections were spotted over the last 24 hours, down on last Monday. A further five fatalities were registered, one more than the same time last week.
Health chiefs also dished out another 131,318 first doses of the Covid vaccine, and 183,745 second doses. More Britons have got their first jab in recent days after the roll-out was expanded to 38 and 39-year-olds.
England today enjoyed more freedoms under the next stage of Boris Johnson‘s roadmap, as pubs and restaurants were again allowed to serve indoors and Britons were permitted to invite up to six people into their homes.
The Prime Minister today warned people to proceed with a ‘heavy dose of caution’ because of fears over spiralling cases of the Indian variant. SAGE members admitted they would not be taking advantage of the freedoms because there was still a risk cases could spike.
Local outbreaks of the alarming new B1617.2 variant have sprung up in Bolton, Blackburn, Sefton in Merseyside, Bedford, Nottingham and Leicester as Public Health England last week confirmed it has found 1,313 cases so far.
Downing Street has admitted the full end of lockdown, scheduled for June 21, could be thrown off course by the variant which could cause a huge spike in infections and hospital admissions in the summer.
It comes as official figures showed the mutant strain is now behind one in five Covid infections, with five out of six hotspots lagging behind in the vaccine roll-out. Cases are focused in London and the North West.
Department of Health figures showed of the deaths recorded today, three were in England and one was in Northern Ireland and Wales. There were no fatalities from the virus in Scotland.
Covid cases have plateaued recently amid mounting concern over the Indian variant, which scientists suggest could be 50 per cent more transmissible than the already dominant Kent variant.
Bolton – which is a hotspot for the mutant strain – now has the highest infection rate in the country after 790 residents tested positive, giving an infection rate of 274.4 cases per 100,000 people.
It was followed by Bedford (212 cases or 122.3 per 100,000) and Blackburn with Darwen (176 cases or 117.6 per 100,000), which are both also hotspots for the B.1.617.2 strain.
At the most recent count the Sanger Institute in London, which is analysing the variants in positive tests, found the Indian variant now makes up 20 per cent of all cases, showing it is edging out the Kent variant, now at 78 per cent.
The Sanger lab found 895 samples containing the variant in the six hotspot areas between April 25 and May 8, not including people who had travelled into England from abroad.
But only Sefton is keeping pace with the national vaccine roll-out, having got at least one dose to 86 per cent of over-40s, while the England average is 83 per cent.
The five other areas are behind on the measure and Nottingham had reached only 74 per cent of eligible adults by May 9, with only 75 per cent in Leicester.
All but Sefton are also below the national average on getting two doses to everyone over the age of 70 (90 per cent) and four out of the six are behind on the proportion of over-50s to have had both doses.
Although figures suggest low vaccine rates aren’t causing high rates – most cases are in young adults – they will raise concerns that outbreaks could quickly turn deadly if older people aren’t protected. Eighteen people are reported to have been hospitalised with the variant in Bolton, with ‘the majority’ of them not fully vaccinated.
Bolton has taken the vaccine rollout into its own hands and is giving jabs to young adults in a bid to slow the spread of the variant, which scientists fear is more infectious than the Kent strain.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for the same tactic to be used elsewhere but the Government is resisting the idea, insisting that areas keep going with the age-based system, which is now on people in their 30s and which ministers say has been ‘very effective’ so far.