Covid cases fall again with 70,924 new infections reported

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Watch: UK reports further 88 deaths

The UK recorded 70,924 new Covid infections and 88 deaths, according to official figures.

That compares with 81,713 cases reported yesterday and 287 deaths.

The figures for Sunday do not include numbers for Scotland because of an IT glitch.

On Friday, the UK’s R (reproduction) number was estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.5, which means the epidemic is still growing overall.

However, the number of reported daily Covid cases fell below 100,000 for the first time since 21 December on Friday.

There are signs that the most recent wave, fuelled by the Omicron variant, is easing with Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden hopeful Plan B restrictions could be lifted at the end of January.

The Prime Minister will review the current rules on mandatory mask-wearing, working from home and Covid passes on January 26.

Dr Chris Smith, a consultant virologist and lecturer based at Cambridge University, said current coronavirus data gives him “great cause for optimism”.

He told the BBC on Saturday: “The number of people who are going into intensive care or are on mechanical ventilation beds is actually dropping. It has remained flat.

“Now that could be because Omicron hasn’t had a chance to bite yet and there will be an uptick later.

“On the other hand, it may be that we are following the trajectory of South Africa, which we seem to be so far, which is they saw a much fewer translation of hospital cases into intensive care beds cases. So let’s hope that carries on.

“This gives me great cause for optimism because I think we are getting to a point now where thanks to vaccination, where 96% of the country we’re told now have antibodies against the coronavirus, thanks to vaccinations thanks to infection rate reinforcing our immunity we are getting to a point where the population have sufficient immunity that we can fend off the infection when we get it much better than we could previously.”

In Wales, if the data allows, working from home guidance will be lifted and nightclubs will reopen on 28 January.

Meanwhile separate government data shows a total of 52,097,840 first doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been delivered in the UK by January 15.

This is a rise of 25,880 on the previous day.

Some 47,905,885 second doses have been delivered, an increase of 39,709.

A combined total of 36,388,391 booster and third doses have been given, a day-on-day rise of 92,623.

Watch: What is a Rapid Lateral Flow Test?

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