The number of deaths involving coronavirus is continuing to decline in every region of England, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.
The figures showed that deaths involving coronavirus decreased in all regions of England for the eighth week in a row, with the East of England and Yorkshire and The Humber reporting the largest decreases.
According to the ONS figures, of the provisional number of deaths registered in England and Wales for the week ending 26 March — which are the latest figures available — 719 mentioned COVID-19.
That was 244 fewer than the week before, and means that deaths involving COVID-19 accounted for 7.2% of all deaths in England and Wales compared to 9.3% in the previous week.
The fall in COVID-related deaths will be welcome news for those hoping that the government's road map out of lockdown can stay on track.
Non-essential retail, outdoor hospitality, gyms and hairdressers are among businesses that are allowed to open from Monday as part of the next step in the easing of restrictions.
The fall in coronavirus deaths comes as the vaccine rollout continues, with health secretary Matt Hancock saying on Thursday that vaccines are clearly breaking the link between COVID cases and deaths in the UK and were saving “thousands of lives”.
Watch: Boris Johnson says AstraZeneca decision will not affect road map out of lockdown
Hancock told Sky News: “The number of people dying from COVID halved in the last nine days… and is down 90% from the peak.”
His comments came as he sought to reassure people of the safety of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab after the after regulators said under-30s should be offered an alternative vaccine amid concerns of a one in a million chance of dying from a rare blood clot.
In a round of interviews, Hancock said everyone should take a vaccine when their time comes, and the risk of experiencing a brain clot was the same as “taking a long-haul flight”.
He urged the under-30s to take a jab to protect loved ones and avoid the risk of long COVID, saying there were was “more than enough” Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for this age range.
The latest ONS figures show that the number of COVID deaths in England and Wales decreased in most age groups - with the biggest decrease seen in those aged 80 to 84.
"The majority (61.1%) of deaths involving COVID-19 were in people aged 75 years and over, however the proportion has been decreasing," the ONS said.
The figures showed that across England, the South East had the largest number of deaths involving coronavirus, while the East Midlands had the highest proportion of deaths involving COVID 19, at 10.8% of deaths.
Watch: How England will leave lockdown