Deaths from coronavirus are at their lowest level in six months, new figures show, as infection rates continue to fall.
As scientists, politicians and health officials urged the public to maintain faith in the Covid-19 vaccines, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that a total of 719 Covid fatalities were registered in England and Wales in the week ending 26 March.
This is down 25 per cent on the previous week's total and is the lowest number since 16 October, with scientists crediting the decrease to the impact of restrictions and the continuing success of the UK’s vaccination programme.
Around one in 14 of all deaths in the week to 26 March mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, the ONS added. Some 10,045 deaths were registered over this timeframe – five per cent below the average for the corresponding period in 2015-19.
This is the third consecutive week that total weekly deaths in England and Wales have been below the five-year average.
Separate data from Public Health England shows that Covid-19 case rates are continuing to fall across all regions of England.
In Yorkshire and the Humber the rate of new cases stood at 66.9 per 100,000 people in the seven days to 4 April, the highest in the country, but down from 111.1 in the previous week. South-west England has the lowest rate, having from fallen from 29.2 to 15.5 infections per 100,000.
Case rates have also decreased across all age groups, PHE said. For 10 to 19-year-olds, the rate stood at 54.3 cases per 100,000, the highest rate among the age groups, but down week-on-week from 111.7.
And according to the latest Test and Trace figures, some 29,293 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to 31 March. This is down around 21 per cent on the previous week and is the lowest number since 16 September.
Meanwhile, nearly six in 10 people in England aged 80 and over have now had both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the NHS.
An estimated 58.5 per cent of people in this age group had received both jabs as of 4 April, meaning they are fully vaccinated against coronavirus.
Some 26.5 per cent of people aged 75 to 79 are estimated to have had both doses, along with 9.7 per cent of people aged 70 to 74.
Just over six million people in the UK have now received two full doses, while 31.8 million have been administered with a single shot.
The figures come as Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours, said having a Covid-19 jab is "actually one of the safer things you do in the day".
Figures suggest the risk of developing a rare blood clot is about four people in a million who receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
"Something like 30 or 40 people drown in the bath every year, something like 1,000 people die falling down the stairs, something like 200 die from choking on their breakfast,” said Prof Reicher, “and that's many, many more deaths than we get from these vaccines.
“So actually taking the vaccine is actually one of the safer things you do in the day, it's definitely safer than cycling or driving to work. So these are incredibly rare events."
Figures from Nomis, run by the University of Durham on behalf of the Office for National Statistics, showed that on average between 2015 and 2019 there were around 770 registered deaths a year from falling on and from stairs and steps.
The statistics, for England and Wales, also showed that there were an average of about 30 registered deaths from drowning in, or falling and then drowning in a bathtub, and about 210 registered deaths from inhalation of food causing an obstruction of the respiratory tract.
There were an average of about 40 deaths each year from adverse reactions from a drug or treatment in therapeutic use, the data also showed.
When it comes to road traffic fatalities in the UK in 2019 the fatality chance was about 1.2 in 1,000,000 for every 250 miles driven, according to data analysed by the Royal Statistical Society.
Researchers from Imperial College London have meanwhile said that the vaccine rollout could be “breaking the link” between infections, deaths and hospital admissions.
According to the latest round of Imperial’s React study, one in 500 people were carrying the virus in March.
Comparing infections and death and hospital admissions, researchers observed “fewer deaths per infection” than they would have expected based on recent prior months of the study.
Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London, said: “We see some divergence between our observed patterns of infection and patterns of death since January, which we think probably suggests that the mass vaccination is breaking that link to some degree between infections and deaths."
He added: “We're observing fewer deaths per infection than we would have expected based on the recent prior months of the study."
"To a lesser extent, we're seeing fewer hospitalisations per infection as well.”