Britain's Covid pandemic appears to be growing again as daily cases increased week-on-week for the fourth day running.
Department of Health bosses posted 31,564 new coronavirus infections today, up 18.5 per cent on the 26,628 recorded last Tuesday.
Cases had been falling for the nine days prior to Saturday, suggesting the UK may finally be seeing the effect of the return to schools at the start of the month.
Deaths also increased today, with the number of people dying within 28 days of testing positive for the virus increasing to 203. This was up 9.7 per cent of last Tuesday's 185.
But Covid hospital admissions are continuing to fall, with 861 new patients recorded last Thursday — the latest date data is available for — down 25 per cent on the previous week.
It was the sixth day in a row hospitalisations fell week-on-week but admission figures tend to follow trends in cases more than a week after any changes.
The daily figures come as separate data today showed Covid was the third leading cause of death in England last month after the country lifted all restrictions.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) data revealed the virus was behind 2,162 fatalities in August, the equivalent of almost 70 per day. This was more than double the number recorded in July, when it was the ninth biggest killer.
ENGLAND: Cases appear to be relatively flat in England despite schools reopening at the start of the month but the data for the four nations of the UK is slightly behind that for the UK in total
SCOTLAND: Infections are continuing drop massively in Scotland after peaking shortly after schools reopened slightly earlier in the country
WALES (left) AND NORTHERN IRELAND (right): Cases have picked up again in Wales after briefly dropping off, while they continue to trend down in Northern Ireland
Tories slam No10 over 'perverse' move to give over-12s Covid vaccines
Tories today slammed the 'perverse' decision to extend the Covid vaccine rollout to children as young as 12.
In the first parliamentary debate about the controversial expansion of the jab drive, Conservative MPs said it did not make sense now that Britain was 'through the worst of the pandemic'.
They questioned the move to leave the final say on vaccination with children, if they are deemed competent enough, given that experts are torn on the health benefits and ethics.
Britain began inoculating healthy secondary school-aged children with a single dose of Pfizer's vaccine for the first time yesterday.
It did so despite originally not getting the blessing from No10's vaccines advisory panel, which said the health benefit to youngsters was 'marginal'.
The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) left the decision to Chris Whitty and the chief medical officers in the devolved nations. They signed off on the plans on the basis that it could prevent hundreds of thousands of school absences.
Bolton West MP Chris Green said in the Commons: 'In many ways we can objectively say we are through the worst of the pandemic and yet the more draconian or authoritarian measures are being introduced at this stage. It's perverse.'
It comes as:
Government data up to September 20 shows that of the 93,130,275 Covid jabs given in the UK, 48,617,703 were first doses, a rise of 24,684 on the previous day. Some 44,512,572 were second doses, an increase of 46,451.
Meanwhile, the ONS data showed Only dementia (4,417) and heart disease (3,982) killed more people last month. Only dementia (4,417) and heart disease (3,982) killed more people last month.
It means Covid has now reached its highest rank for monthly fatalities since March, when the brutal second wave was receding.
There were 40,460 deaths from all causes in England last month, a tenth more than the five-year average for the final month of summer. Covid was behind 5.3 per cent of the fatalities.
A separate ONS report published today found coronavirus deaths surged by almost a third over the second week of September. The virus was mentioned on 857 death certificates in the week to September 10, up from 659 in the previous seven-day spell.
But the Government agency said the surge was skewed by the August bank holiday, which saw fewer registrations in the previous week. But there was a slight uptick in reported deaths over the time frame.
It comes amid fears Britain's Covid cases may be starting to rise again, in a sign the predicted wave of infections following the return of schools and workers back to the office may be beginning to materialise.
If the upwards trend in cases is genuine, hospitalisations and deaths are likely to follow suit in the coming weeks.
Boris Johnson last week unveiled his winter plan to try to keep the virus at bay in the colder months and prevent the country from returning to another lockdown. Ministers hope booster vaccines for over-50s and jabbing over-12s will help to keep a lid on Covid and stop the NHS facing unsustainable pressure.
The above graph shows Covid's rank in terms of deaths triggered in England since July last year. It reveals that the virus surged to number one between November and February during the second wave. It is now rising again, and was the third leading cause of death in August
Covid has become the third leading cause of death in England, official figures showed today. They revealed that over August there were 2,162 deaths mentioning the virus. Only dementia (4,417 deaths) and heart disease (3,982) sparked more deaths. There were 2,150 deaths due to lung cancer
The Office for National Statistics released a separate report today showing weekly deaths due to Covid had risen by almost a third in a week. They said there were 857 deaths that mentioned the virus, but pointed out the sharp rise is likely due to the bank holiday at the start of September, which delayed reporting of figures