Figures released by the Department for Health this afternoon show another 68,214 coronavirus cases have been recorded over the past 24 hours, while the death toll has risen by 276
Britain has recorded another 68,214 coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, up from 66,183 on Tuesday.
While another 276 people have died with the virus – exactly have the number of deaths recorded last Wednesday – down from 314 on Tuesday.
The latest official figures, released by the Department for Health this afternoon, show a 26% decrease on confirmed infections since this time last week. Last Wednesday (February 2) saw a total of 92,594 cases recorded.
Deaths, meanwhile, decreased from 552 – a difference of exactly 50%.
However, figures show there is still a high prevalence of the virus across the country, with infections remaining well above pre-Christmas levels.
Around one in 19 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to February 5, or 2.8 million people – up from one in 20, or 2.6 million people, in the week to January 29.
Case numbers have substantially dropped since peaking around New Year’s – with 245,182 recorded on January 4.
But the lag between catching Covid and falling ill, and then falling seriously ill and dying, means death rates are spiking now.
The latest available daily hospital admission figures are 1,421, from February 3, which was a 10.1% decrease over the previous week.
Sunday’s figure of 54,095 was the lowest daily recorded rate since December 13, which saw 54,661.
Yesterday saw a 41% decrease on recorded cases from last Tuesday, though deaths had gone up by 43% week on week.
New Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show Covid-19 infection levels have risen in three of the four UK nations, with only Wales showing a fall.
Scotland and Northern Ireland both saw an increase last week in the number of people in private households likely to have coronavirus.
England is also seeing an increase in the number of cases recorded, though the trend here is “uncertain”, the ONS said.
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The ONS infection survey is the most reliable snapshot of the prevalence of coronavirus in the UK. The data is based on a representative sample of swab tests collected from tens of thousands of households, and is therefore able to estimate the percentage of people likely to test positive for Covid-19 at any one point in time.
Unlike the Government’s daily figures, this therefore accounts for Covid patients who have not self-reported.
News of the latest death toll and case numbers comes just hours after Boris Johnson announced a shock plan to end all Covid self-isolation laws in England – in just two weeks’ time.
The Prime Minister unveiled the strategy at Prime Minister’s Questions as he faces questions about his future in the job, revealing he plans to end self-isolation for people who test positive for coronavirus.
The change would come into play “a full month earlier” than planned, Johnson said.
Self-isolation regulations expire on March 24. That means the law is set to be axed on around Thursday 24 February, two weeks from now.
Mr Johnson said: “It is my intention to return on the first day after the half term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid.
The decision will end almost exactly two years of legally-enforced isolation for people who test positive for the virus.
Meanwhile, the Met Police is facing fresh calls to investigate a No 10 “virtual” Christmas quiz after a new picture emerged of Boris Johnson with an open bottle of bubbly.
The image shows the Prime Minister flanked by three members of staff, one wearing a tinsel and another a Santa hat, at the event on December 15, 2020.
On the desk in front of him – from where he read out quiz questions to teams across the building – is what appears to be champagne and a half-eaten packet of crisps.
Mr Johnson was accused of personally breaking Covid laws by hosting the festive event after the Mirror revealed last year that it had taken place.
Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing/Getty Images)
At the time London was under Tier 2 regulations banning any social mixing between two or more people from different households.
Official guidance also stated: “You must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.”
Just two days after the Mirror’s initial story, the PM said: “I can tell you once again that I certainly broke no rules.”
But the Christmas quiz is not one of the dozen No 10 gatherings under investigation by police.
This is despite a smaller festive quiz held in the Cabinet Office just two days later being looked at.
One Covid laws expert said that Scotland Yard should now add the Downing Street Christmas quiz to the list of events it is probing.
Adding to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, new research has found the spread of the Covid Delta variant could be aided by pet hamsters.
It comes after a 23-year-old pet store worker tested positive for Covid on January 15, leading to researchers collecting swabs and blood samples from animals in the Hong King store and the warehouse supplying it.
The study then found half of the Syrian hamsters in the pet shop had tested positive for the Delta variant.
The research, which is yet to be peer reviewed, also determined that there had been at least two hamster to human cases of transmission – which had the potential to lead to onward human to human transmission.