Most of England recorded at least one day with no coronavirus deaths over the past week – the first time this has happened in six months.
Five out of nine regions were free of fatalities for a minimum 24 hours while London averaged 1.5 deaths daily over the week.
Official figures show there were no virus deaths in the South East, West Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber or the East of England on Wednesday.
The South West has reported no daily deaths three times in the past week.
Deaths across the country fell to a five-month low this week, with a daily average below 80 – compared to more than 1,000 for most of January.
Public Health England said cases have ‘plateaued’ – down in every age group apart from schoolchildren, who saw a modest increase.
Infections are now highest among children aged ten to 19, with around one in 1,000 testing positive for the virus, many without symptoms.
The infection rate rose from 39.9 to 63.5 per 100,000 among five to nine-year-olds, but all other age groups showed a week-on-week drop.
Following the vaccine rollout, infections are lowest in people aged 70 to 79, with 13.3 per 100,000.
Some 56 of 149 council areas saw an uptick in cases over the week to March 21, according to the latest surveillance report from Public Health England
Boris Johnson requires every school child in England to test themselves for Covid twice a week, to ensure any outbreaks can be nipped in the bud. This has led to a doubling in the number of swabs carried out each day
It came as a further 63 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test were reported across the UK yesterday.
NHS England chief Sir Simon Stevens said the trend of much lower figures for Covid cases meant the Health Service’s coronavirus alert level should be downgraded from four to three to reflect ‘reduced acute pressures’.
He told an NHS England board meeting: ‘We had over 34,000 severely ill coronavirus patients in our hospitals in mid-January.
‘That number is now 4,000. Although that is still about 400 more Covid patients than we had this same day a year ago…that very sharp decrease in the number of patients with Covid in hospital is a consequence of both declining infection rates across the community and the impact that’s now being felt from the vaccination programme.’
The positive snapshot will add to pressure for a swift end to lockdown, with the next phase of the Prime Minister’s roadmap coming into effect on Monday.
Figures show Yorkshire and the Humber recorded no daily deaths on Wednesday – the first time since September 8, over 28 weeks ago.
On the same day, the South East, which was once ravaged by the deadly Kent variant, recorded zero deaths for the first time since September 22.
They were joined by the West Midlands and the East of England with no fatalities.
There were three days in the last week in which the South West recorded no deaths, with 11 registered in total.
But when the figures were broken down by age they showed cases were only ticking up among those aged five to 19, but were still falling across all other age groups. They fell fastest in the over-70s who are least at risk from the virus
The positivity rate from cases has stabalised in all regions of England, but experts say this is because of additional testing
Meanwhile, London – the epicentre of the second wave of Covid – had just one death on both Tuesday and Wednesday, with 11 across the whole week.
While cases of coronavirus increased by around 800 yesterday to 6,397, experts believe much of this is due to the millions of lateral flow tests being taken by schoolchildren.
Over the past seven days there were a total of 38,424 cases – down by 781 on the previous week.
Coronavirus cases are dropping in all age groups other than children and teenagers in the United Kingdom since schools reopened in England on March 8, dismissing fears cases would balloon in the wider population once children returned to classrooms
Covid cases fell by six per cent to 37,000 as infections dropped for the tenth week in a row, NHS Test and Trace data has shown
In another positive sign, symptomatic cases recorded by the ‘gold standard’ PCR tests have fallen by 12 per cent week-on-week up to March 21.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, of Public Health England said swathes of the country are seeing cases level off but warned ‘we must not drop our guard now’.
She said: ‘Case rates have plateaued in most parts of the country and in younger age groups infections have begun to rise once again. We must not drop our guard now after so much effort by so many.
‘We need only look to Europe to see how easy it is for things to take a turn for the worse.’
She told Britons: ‘We are all looking forward to being able to see loved ones. However, please remember that this virus spreads through contact.’
WHERE ARE COVID INFECTION RATES RISING FASTEST?
Barking and Dagenham
Windsor and Maidenhead
% rise (infection rate)
+65% (85.5 per 100,000)
+55% (42.6 per 100,000)
+54% (74.7 per 100,000)
+44% (37.9 per 100,000)
+43% (22.1 per 100,000)
+43% (50.3 per 100,000)
+42% (53.5 per 100,000)
+28% (142.7 per 100,000)
+27% (94.8 per 100,000)
+26% (84.3 per 100,000)
Public Health England figures for the week to March 21.