Large swathes of England recording tiny numbers of Covid cases as lockdown eases
Large swathes of England are recording almost negligible numbers of coronavirus cases as lockdown eases.
The good news comes after months of lockdown, more than 127,000 deaths and 4.47 million infections.
Boris Johnson said Monday’s unlocking is a “major step” towards freedom – as it emerges cases have fallen fast.
Official figures show that thousands of the country’s areas are now showing less than three infections per week.
Public Health England’s (PHE) interactive map displays an area as white if there has been between zero and two cases in the last week.
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A quick scan of the map now shows that huge parts of the country are showing as colourless after months of lockdown.
Some areas have been white for weeks – signalling a consistent drop in case numbers.
The promising data comes as people ready themselves for the next stage of Boris Johnson’s roadmap on Monday.
Pubs, hairdressers, shops and gyms are just some of the services which can reopen from April 12.
The colour-coded interactive map being shown now is in stark contrast to the display on February 2.
Darker colours indicate more cases – with the map showing deep shades across England two months ago.
But the most recent update, as of April 6, shows much lighter colours across much of the country.
According to PHE, the 10 worst hotspots in England – as per cases per 100,000 people – are:
The interactive map shows that parts of the North East and East Midlands as a whole retain higher numbers of cases, relatively.
For example, Mansfield recorded 76 cases from the seven days up to April 6.
Corby registered 70 infections in the same time period.
Even Liverpool, the site of surges earlier in the pandemic, is now displaying large numbers of colourless areas, with 102 cases overall.
But much of the South West is shown to be completely white.
Some areas in the region, like Combe Martin, Devon, have even gone 10 weeks recording nearly no cases.
And London – another previous virus hotspot – is also showing case numbers totalling between zero and two in many areas.
The boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark combined have recorded just 80 cases infections in the past week.
Parts of the South East, where the notorious ‘Kent’ virus strain is said to have originated, are also showing slightly lower numbers.
The county town of Maidstone registered just 14 cases in the last week, while coastal Dover has just five infections.
The UK recorded seven coronavirus deaths in last 24 hours – the lowest figure since September 13 last year.
The nation has now suffered 127,087 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to official data.
A further 1,730 cases were recorded.
Boris Johnson has described the unlocking on Monday as a a “major step” towards freedom from the pandemic.
Hundreds of thousands of businesses have been closed since early January, when the country entered a third lockdown to stem surging infections driven by the “Kent” variant of the virus.
But a vaccination campaign that has delivered a first shot to well over half of adults and lockdown measures have cut deaths by more than 95 per cent and cases by over 90 per cent from the January peak.
“I’m sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it’s a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed,” the Prime Minister said in a statement on Sunday.
“I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ to suppress COVID as we push on with our vaccination programme.”
And professor Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told Times Radio: “The watchword has got to be caution really.
“It’s not clear exactly when or how big it will be, but there is, I think, inevitably going to be a bit of a rebound in the number of cases when things are relaxed.”
The Oxford University academic said the vaccination programme will minimise hospital admissions and deaths but warned it will not be completely effective.
“Now the extent of it really depends on how well we comply with the ongoing restrictions so we really have to take this step by step,” he added.
“I think we can be joyful and enjoy the freedoms but we’ve still got to realise there’s still a large number of people who’ve not been infected or vaccinated and so they will be at risk.”
Pubs and restaurants in England have been making changes during lockdown to maximise their ability to serve customers outside.
But the British Beer and Pub Association estimates that just 40 per cent of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service.
The previous 10pm curfew rule and the requirement to order a substantial meal with a drink have been scrapped, but social distancing must be observed.
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