Britain’s daily Covid cases today fell to a five-week low, with just 21,952 positive tests recorded across the nation.
Department of Health figures show the number of infections is 12 per cent down on last week, as the third wave continues to slow.
Meanwhile, deaths – which lag several weeks behind cases – continued to rise. Another 24 victims were posted today, compared to 14 last Monday.
Covid cases are lower today than they have been since June 29, according to the official figures released today.
But the number of virus tests conducted also fell to their lowest levels since June 26, suggesting there are cases that have not been picked up.
The new figures follow data published on Friday, which suggested cases are still on the rise and as many as one in 65 people in England are currently infected.
Some experts think fewer people are coming forward for Covid tests to avoid isolation.
The figures also signal a slow in the week-on-week drop in infections, with cases dropping by 12 per cent on seven days earlier.
Last Monday, cases had dropped by 37.5 per cent compared to the previous week.
Meanwhile, there were just 24 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid tests were recorded, down from 65 yesterday, but an increase of 71.4 per cent compared to last Monday.
Covid death figures released on Monday often lag, due to a delay in recording deaths over the weekend.
Updated hospitalisation figures for last Tuesday show a further 911 patients were admitted to hospital who tested positive for the virus, a drop of 1.6 per cent compared to one week earlier.
Just 21,266 people came forward for their first Covid jab, despite less than 70 per cent of under-40s having had a dose of the vaccine.
It comes as Covid booster vaccines will be offered to 32million Britons from next month, it was claimed today.
Over 50s and immunosuppressed people, along with NHS and care home staff will be offered third doses from as soon as September 6.
The vaccines will be administered at up to 2,000 pharmacies, with the goal of 2.5m per week. And they will be dished out at the same time as flu jabs, ministers hope.
The Telegraph reports No10 is aiming to get the most vulnerable groups jabbed by mid-December, so the vaccine has at least fortnight to kick in before Christmas.
All eligible adults are expected to get a dose of Pfizer, regardless of which vaccine they received for their first two injections.
Latest data from Public Health England suggests the Pfizer injection is slightly more effective against the Indian ‘Delta’ stain, which could encourage the Government to adopt the mix-and-match strategy.
But Department of Health bosses have yet to confirm any official details of the UK’s booster scheme, with ministers waiting on final advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Prizes for having the jab: As No10 plans to hand out Uber rides and takeaways, insiders reveal free coffee and cinema tickets could be new incentives to beat Covid vaccine hesitancy in youngsters
Young people could be offered a free latte or cinema ticket in return for having the Covid jab under plans being discussed by ministers.
The Government yesterday announced commercial tie-ups that will see firms like Deliveroo and Uber offer discounted takeaways and taxi rides to people who sign up for vaccination.
A Government source said that further deals were expected in the coming days with cinema chains, coffee franchises and high street restaurants potentially involved.
However ministers have ruled out offering cash bribes as seen in the United States where newly-vaccinated citizens are to be offered $100 in cash, equal to £72.
‘There is a lot of work going on into broadening this out into other areas,’ the source said.
‘We will not be offering cash payments but we hope there will be a range of attractive high street incentives that will encourage more people to come forward and have the jab.’
Boris Johnson is said to be frustrated that 30 per cent of people aged under 30 have still not come forward for their first jab, more than six weeks after vaccinations were opened up to all adults.
A Government source said vaccinations in the age group were currently running at 40-50,000 a day, but added: ‘We’d like to be doing a lot more.’
The JCVI set out interim advice on the booster programme in June, advising that, if needed, the booster programme should begin in September.
Third jabs should first be offered to over-70s, over-16s who are immunosuppressed or extremely vulnerable, those living in care homes and frontline health and social care workers, they said.
In a second stage, the boosters should be given to remaining over-50s, over-16s who are at risk from the flu or Covid and those living with immunosuppressed individuals, the JCVI recommended.
The scientists said their final advice ‘may change substantially’ and will depend on emerging data, including on how long immunity lasts from two jabs.
The final recommendation from the experts is expected in the coming weeks.
But a Government source told the Telegraph the plan is to give flu and Covid boosters at the same time in different arms but it ‘depends on final JCVI advice and coronavirus vaccine booster trials’.
Ministers are hoping to increase the record number of jabs given in a single day through the programme – which stands at 873,784 given on March 20, the source added.
Immunity gained from Covid jabs last for at least six months in the ‘majority’ of cases.
But there are fears this could fade later in the year, which could trigger a spike in hospitalisations and deaths.
An Oxford University trial looking at booster doses suggested a third shot six months after the second could restore peak immunity against Covid.
Ministers are expected to set out plans for the Pfizer jab to be used in the booster programme.
Scientists at Oxford University found in June that mixing and matching Covid jabs can give more protection, with those who got one AstraZeneca dose followed by a Pfizer jab having nine times more antibodies than those who stuck with the UK-made vaccine.
Experts who led the trial said the findings could have a ‘major impact’ on a booster regime and those who got two AstraZeneca jabs ‘should probably be offered the Pfizer vaccine’.
Additionally, two doses of the Pfizer jab are 96 per cent effective against hospitalisation, but this dropped to 92 per cent after the AstraZeneca jab.
The roll-out could also see a move away from GPs and mass vaccination sites, with more reliance on pharmacies.
The number of pharmacies offering the jabs are expected to triple from 650 to nearly 2,000, but this is a fraction of the 9,500 that offer flu vaccines, according to the Telegraph.
This would take pressure off other parts of the health service, which are attempting to tackle the record high NHS waiting list and increasing A&E admissions.
But it is not yet proven that booster doses are needed, so it is unclear who needs them, when and how often.
Some scientists and the World Health Organization said getting first jabs into unvaccinated adults in other countries should be the priority, because they are the most vulnerable.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘The government is preparing for a booster programme and JCVI have published interim advice on who to prioritise for a possible third vaccine from September 2021.
‘The booster programme – which would ensure millions of people most vulnerable to Covid will have the protection they have from first and second doses maintained ahead of the winter and against new variants – will be informed by the JCVI’s final advice.
‘We are working with the NHS as they draw up detailed plans to deliver this booster vaccination programme, alongside the annual flu vaccination programme, and more details about rollout will be set out in due course.’