The UK today recorded 10 per cent fewer coronavirus infections than last week, while deaths are down by more than a third.
Department of Health figures show there were 5,766 more cases in the past 24 hours, down on the 6,391 last week, and 231 fatalities, down from 343.
The rate at which infections are declining has naturally started to slow now that the virus is circulating in low numbers.
But deaths are still in free-fall because they lag about three weeks behind cases, due to the time it takes for patients to fall ill with the disease.
Official figures also show the NHS dished out more than 255,000 more doses of coronavirus vaccines yesterday, which means 22.6million people have now had at least one injection. Nearly 1.2m have received both shots.
With the Covid metrics dramatically decreasing and the jab rollout steaming ahead, there is mounting pressure from anti-lockdown Tory MPs for an earlier easing of restrictions.
But Professor Chris Whitty said today he would ‘strongly advise’ No10 sticks to its cautious plan, which gives five-week intervals between each stage of restrictions being lifted.
Giving evidence to MPs today, the chief medical officer said: ‘If you open up too fast, a lot more people die… I think it’s very easy to forget quite how quickly things can turn bad.’
He claimed it was ‘perfectly realistic’ that tens of thousands more Brits could be killed by Covid because the virus ‘will find’ people who have not been vaccinated, or for whom the jab has not worked.
But Professor Whitty, who gave evidence to MPs today, made clear that because of the highly effective vaccines now in the arms of the most vulnerable, the scale of the next wave of the epidemic will be ‘nothing like’ this winter.
No10 has promised to follow the ‘data, not dates’, when easing restrictions but has set strict five-week intervals between each phase of the plan.
Ministers have refused to shorten the time between lifting curbs no matter how promising the data is, but have not ruled out extending the window if the figures begin to trend in the wrong direction.
Today the Prime Minister’s spokesman backed up their science chiefs’ warning, saying: ‘We are gradually, in a very cautious way, moving through the road map so that we have the time between steps to look at the impact lifting restrictions has had. The Prime Minister has been clear it is a cautious road map but he wants it to be irreversible.’
Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, England’s chief scientific adviser, were quizzed by MPs on the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee this morning.