Case rates have taken an unexpected nose dive in recent days – but deaths are higher than at any point since April.

According to new statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 218 news deaths in England and Wales in the week ending July 16.

The figures were collected prior to the infection peak of July 17 and before cases began to drop off steeply.

Scientists have warned that hospitalisations and deaths will continue to rise for several more days before any impact of the recent decline in cases is seen.

The ONS figures were released on the same day 131 new hospital deaths were recorded, the first time the grim triple figure threshold has been crossed since March 23.

The picture is bleaker in the North East and North West, where registered deaths involving Covid-19 are at their highest levels since March.

Both areas have seen infections rise above the national average at various points in recent weeks, with enhanced support having to be sent into the North East.

The region saw 24 Covid-19 deaths registered in the week to July 16, the highest since 35 deaths in the week to March 26.

The North West was the area with the highest number of coronavirus deaths (71) about a third of the total registered that week.

This is the highest weekly total since the 106 deaths registered in the week ending March 26, during the second wave.

The overall weekly total for registered coronavirus deaths is up 19% from the previous seven days and the third consecutive weekly rise.

It is more than double the 99 deaths registered three weeks ago, during the week ending June 25.

And it is the highest total since 260 deaths were recorded in the week to April 23.

Deaths remain significantly lower than they would have at a similar point in previous waves thanks to the vaccine rollout. 

Despite that, care home deaths have also increased, up to 27 from 20 the week before.

In total, 42,614 care home residents in England and Wales have had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate since the pandemic began.

The ONS figures cover deaths of care home residents in all settings, not just in care homes.

A total of 154,661 deaths have now occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.

Despite cautious optimism the third wave may not hit the heights many experts had feared, NHS leaders have warned the health service is under pressures not seen since January.

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