The number of new Covid-19 cases in the UK has fallen for five days in a row for the first time since February, but this figure does not include the impact of 19 July restriction easing.
On Sunday the UK recorded 29,173 new cases, down from 48,161 logged on 18 July. It is the first time since the pandemic that a sustained drop has not coincided with a national lockdown. Most legal restrictions on social contact in England were lifted on 19 July.
The seven-day average of Covid cases showed a 15.4% decline compared with the previous week. Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said that while the present data was “looking good for at least the summer” he sounded a note of caution.
He told the BBC: “[The] figures do not, of course, include any impact of last Monday’s end of restrictions. It will not be until about next Friday before the data includes the impact of this change.”
According to Public Health England figures on Sunday, a further 28 deaths had been recorded within 28 days of a positive Covid test. It said 46,563,452 people had had a first dose of a Covid vaccine, while 37,160,659 had received a second dose.
With regard to hospital admissions, there were 5,001 Covid patients in hospital across the UK as of 22 July. This was up from a low of 871 on 27 May.
Experts have said this drop in the number of Covid cases could in part be because of the recent hot weather, which has meant people have been socialising outside more.
During the past fortnight, there has also been a drop in the number of people taking Covid tests, which could also be a factor for the dip in figures.
Covid rules in England were relaxed on 19 July, removing social distancing restrictions in bars and restaurants and allowing nightclubs to reopen. In countries such as the Netherlands and Spain, the reopening of nightclubs was followed by a sharp rise in infections.
Prof Mark Woolhouse, from Edinburgh University, said the country could still see a rise in cases this summer. The professor of infectious disease epidemiology told the BBC: “There are at least 8 million adults who have had no vaccination at all, plus most children under 18. That is still a lot of material for the virus to work with … and if the change in behaviour is dramatic enough [after 19 July], then we could see cases increase again.”