Coronavirus: UK records sixth consecutive fall in daily case numbers

Downing Street warns decrease in figures could be reversed as impact of reopening felt

A sign for a Covid vaccination centre in London on Monday. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

A sign for a Covid vaccination centre in London on Monday. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

 

The UK has reported its sixth consecutive fall in daily coronavirus cases with 24,950 new infections recorded on Monday, the lowest figure for three weeks. The figures come a week after Boris Johnson removed almost all legal coronavirus restrictions amid warnings that the move could drive daily cases above 100,000.

But Downing Street warned that the fall in case numbers, down more than 21 per cent on the previous week, could be reversed as the impact of the reopening, Step 4 of the government’s roadmap, is felt.

“Obviously any reduction in cases is encouraging. But the PM [prime minsiter] has stressed many times before that the pandemic is not over and we are not out of the woods yet,” Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said.

“We said last week, when we moved to Step 4, that allowing large numbers of people to meet in indoor settings would have an impact on case numbers, and it remains the case that we won’t have seen the impact of Step 4 yet in terms of cases numbers. So, as we always do, we will continue to keep all the stats under the review.”

Scientists have suggested a number of factors that could be behind the sustained fall in case numbers, including the fact that so many people are fully vaccinated, the fact that children are not in school and the warm weather driving activities outdoors. Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome foundation and a member of the government’s expert advisory group Sage, said that people were changing behaviour more cautiously than expected.

“It is far too early, on 26 July, a week after restrictions were lifted, to know the impact of the final lifting of those restrictions. But I think people’s behaviour has changed,” he said.

“Certainly when I go out of my house, I do see a more gradual and cautious lifting of restrictions and I would hope, therefore, we will not see a massive rebound if we continue to be gradual and cautious about what we do. Schools have closed as well and that will have made a difference. We’re in the summer months; that makes a marginal difference. And I hope beyond hope that we don’t have to go back into lockdowns this autumn.”

‘Beijing-type democracy’

The fall in numbers comes amid unrest on the Conservative backbenches over reports that vaccine passports could be required by third-level students wishing to attend lectures in person in the autumn.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, compared the rollout of vaccine passports to China’s social credit system which offers advantages to citizens on the basis of their behaviour as monitored by surveillance systems and databases.

“This is another form of an ID card. We need to be extremely careful that we don’t go from a Brussels-type democracy to a Beijing-type democracy,” he told Talkradio.

Robert Halfon, the Conservative chairman of the Commons education select committee, said the idea of restricting lectures to the fully vaccinated was wrongheaded.

“It’s like something out of Huxley’s Brave New World where people with vaccine passports will be engineered into social hierarchies – those who will be given higher education or those who do not,” he said.