Britain reported 58 more coronavirus deaths on Saturday, taking the number of people who have died within 28 days of a positive test to 126,573.
A further 4,715 people have tested positive for the disease, a 16 per cent drop from last Saturday’s figure of 5,587.
One week ago, 96 deaths were recorded, meaning fatalities have fallen by 40 per cent in seven days to the lowest Saturday figure in six months.
The data includes the removal of cases incorrectly reported by PHE due to a laboratory processing error and the addition of historical cases in Wales.
Yesterday 694,959 new vaccinations – both first and second doses – were registered across the UK, slightly lower than last Friday’s figure of 711,156 jabs, according to Government data.
The total of second doses hit another record high after 283,654 were dished out, bringing the number of people who have received both jabs to 3,293,517 – nearly five per cent of the total population.
Meanwhile, the amount of people who have had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine in the UK stands at 29,727,435 – 44.5 per cent of the total population – as of Friday.
The figures come ahead of the easing of restrictions on ‘Happy Monday’, with larger outdoor meetings being permitted in England from March 29.
Earlier today, Boris Johnson said that he can see nothing in the data to dissuade him from continuing along his roadmap, which would mean no curbs from June 21.
Britain reported 58 more coronavirus deaths on Saturday, taking the number of people who have died within 28 days of a positive test to 126,573
A further 4,715 people have tested positive for the disease, a 16 per cent drop from last Saturday’s figure of 5,587
Boris Johnson remained optimistic that his roadmap to easing England’s restrictions can continue, saying there is a ‘good chance’ of allowing non-essential retail reopening on April 12
Joggers and walkers pictured in St James’ Park in London today. The UK is set to begin its first phase of easing Covid lockdown restrictions from March 29
People flock to Borough Market in London this afternoon as they enjoy the sunshine in the city ahead of ‘Happy Monday’
The Prime Minister acknowledged cases could again spiral as restrictions are relaxed, with the ‘stay local’ order having ended in Wales and larger outdoor meetings being permitted in England from Monday.
But he said on Saturday that the ‘key difference’ this time is that the rise in prevalence should be ‘sufficiently mitigated’ by the successful vaccine rollout.
However, there were warnings that more must be done to prevent the import of new variants from overseas as vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi raised the prospect of booster shots beginning in September.
During a discussion at the Conservatives’ virtual spring forum, Mr Johnson said that a ‘third wave’ is being witnessed in parts of Europe and ‘bitter experience’ has taught him that this could hit the UK ‘three weeks later’.
‘The question is – is it going to be, this time, as bad it has been in the past? Or have we sufficiently mitigated, muffled, blunted the impact by the vaccine rollout?’ he added.
‘There’s lots of promising evidence that a lot of people who could be vulnerable are now protected against death and serious disease, that’s my hope, my hunch.
‘But we haven’t yet seen the real conclusive proof in the sense that we haven’t seen a take-off in infection rates that hasn’t been accompanied by a lot of hospitalisations and deaths. That’ll be the key difference this time round, if we’re lucky.’
Mr Johnson, however, remained optimistic that his roadmap to easing England’s restrictions can continue, saying there is a ‘good chance’ of allowing non-essential retail reopening on April 12, when hairdressers are also earmarked to reopen.
A handout photo issued by Press Eye of First Minister Arlene Foster receiving her first Covid vaccination at Castle Park Leisure Centre in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, on Saturday
Ms Foster seen speaking to volunteers after receiving her Covid vaccine. The amount of people who have had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine in the UK stands at 29,727,435
A ‘drop in’ Covid vaccination bus is pictured in the car park of a Sainsbury’s in Bury Park, Luton, on Saturday as part of a trial in areas where the take up of the vaccination has been poor
A member of the public is seen passing a Covid vaccination centre sign in Blairgowrie, Scotland, earlier today
‘In just a few days’ time, I’m finally going to be able to go to the barbers,’ he said in a subsequent speech.
‘But more important than that, I’m going to be able to go down the street and cautiously, but irreversibly, I’m going to drink a pint of beer in the pub.
‘And as things stand, I can see absolutely nothing in the data to dissuade me from continuing along our road map to freedom, unlocking our economy and getting back to the life we love.’
Meanwhile, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the first booster doses would go to the top four priority groups, including the over-70s care home staff, NHS workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
He told the Telegraph that this would likely begin in September and was said to have added that the Government is expecting up to eight different jabs to be available by the autumn, including one protecting against three different variants in a single dose.
A number will reportedly be manufactured in the UK, which could ease the pressure on supplies amid tensions with the European Union as it faces shortages from AstraZeneca.
Asked when the booster programme would begin, Mr Zahawi told the newspaper: ‘The most likely date will be September.
‘Jonathan Van-Tam (the deputy chief medical officer) thinks that if we are going to see a requirement for a booster jab to protect the most vulnerable, (it) would be around September.’
Dr Mike Tildesley, who advises the Government on the Spi-M modelling group, said it was ‘good news’ that September has been suggested for boosters, but warned the arrival of new variants must be stalled.
‘In the shorter term, we are worried about new variants, but if we can keep these out for a longer period of time, enough time for these boosters to be developed, then that should hopefully protect us as we go into the winter,’ he told Times Radio.
Ministers were facing pressure to protect the success of the vaccination programme against the import of new variants from overseas, with the Guardian reporting officials met on Friday to consider expanding the travel ‘red list’ mandating hotel quarantine.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: ‘Ministers need to do everything possible to stop new variants reaching the UK – and move to a comprehensive hotel quarantine system now.’
A jogger runs past a closed retail store in London on Saturday. The rule of six will apply again from Monday for people meeting in parks and private gardens
A closed retail store pictured in central London today. The Government announced that retailers in England will be able to stay open until 10pm six days a week when they are permitted to trade again from April 12
A man wearing a face mask walks past a closed retail store in London. Chancellor Rishi Sunak encouraged people to ‘go have fun’by spending their savings after the first phase in the easing of lockdown restrictions
The Government announced that retailers in England will be able to stay open until 10pm six days a week when they are permitted to trade again from April 12.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said it will allow them to reopen ‘safely’, as Chancellor Rishi Sunak encouraged people to ‘go have fun’ by spending their savings.
But Dr Tildesley, an infectious disease expert at Warwick University, warned against Mr Sunak’s choice of language for ‘flipping from one extreme to the other’, like in his Eat Out To Help Out scheme last summer.
‘I totally understand the need to reinvigorate the economy, but I think we need slightly more measured language here, to encourage people to do that, but to do it within the rules, to make sure that we observe social distancing,’ he told Times Radio.
In Wales, lockdown restrictions were being eased as the ‘stay local’ requirement was dropped on Saturday and people being allowed to stay in self-contained holiday accommodation.
A relaxing of England’s lockdown will take place on Monday when the ‘stay home’ order ends, and groups of up to six people, or two households, are able to meet outside.