LONDON (Reuters) – Britain reported its lowest number of daily new coronavirus infections since the start of the year on Saturday, adding to signs that a national lockdown is slowing the spread of a more infectious variant of the disease.
However the effect of the recent surge in cases remains clear in the death toll, which was the third-highest on record. Health experts have warned it has further to rise.
Government figures showed the number of people testing positive was 41,346, compared with 55,761 on Friday. It was the lowest daily reading since Dec. 27, when fewer people were getting tested over the festive holiday period.
Deaths continue to rise rapidly, however, with another 1,295 reported on Saturday, taking the total number of fatalities recorded within 28 days of a positive test to 88,590.
Britain has Europe’s highest death toll – though more have died in Italy and Belgium on a per capita basis. Chris Witty, the government’s chief medical officer, warned the public on Friday that daily death numbers had not yet peaked.
The country has been under a national lockdown since Jan. 5, when schools were closed for most pupils, non-essential businesses were shut to the public, and people were ordered to work from home where possible.
In its latest move to control infections, the government has ordered all travellers to Britain from Monday to produce a certificate showing they do not have coronavirus, as well as having to observe a quarantine for 10 days on arrival.
Britain is pinning its hopes on a rapid rollout of vaccines to people aged over 70 and other vulnerable groups. Government data showed on Saturday that almost 3.6 million people had received one dose of vaccine, the most in Europe and an increase of 324,000 on the day before.
The country is aiming to have given first doses of vaccines to 15 million people in high-risk categories by mid-February.
(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Mike Harrison)