Britain's Covid outbreak is continuing to flat line despite the return to schools with new daily infections increasing week-on-week for the first time in ten days, according to official statistics.
Department of Health bosses posted 30,144 new cases today, up two per cent on the 29,547 recorded last Saturday.
The number of people dying within 28 days of a positive test also increased 5.1 per cent to 164, up from the 156 seen last week.
But hospitalisations are continuing to fall, with 932 people admitted with the virus on September 14 — the most recent day data is available for.
It was down 13.1 per cent on the previous week and marked the fourth day in a row the number of admissions has fallen week-on-week.
Meanwhile, NHS staff and volunteers dished out 19,605 first vaccine doses yesterday, taking the country's total number of partly vaccinated people to 48.5 million people — 89.3 per cent of the adult population.
Some 59,032 second doses were administered, taking the fully protected population up to 44.4million (81.6 per cent).
Despite the country continuing to reap the rewards of jabs, a Government advisor today admitted the vaccine would not have been recommended for children in normal times until it had been fully investigated.
Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said scientists did not have the 'luxury' of time to research the possible risks of jabbing children and would usually have collected more evidence before recommending their use on teens.
GPs need more cash, thousands more doctors and extra space in surgeries before returning to pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face appointments, leading medic claims
Returning to pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face GP appointments cannot happen without more funding, a leading doctor has claimed.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA's GP committee, said the NHS needs thousands more family doctors – as well as extra space in surgeries – to allow more patients to be seen in-person.
But he denied claims from patients that people are receiving worse care as a result of appointments carried out online or by telephone.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said that as life starts to return to normal, more GPs should be offering face-to-face access, adding: 'We intend to do a lot more about it.'
Although the NHS has already been promised billions of pounds in new taxes to fix the health and social care crisis, the union says significant sums need specifically to be allocated to GPs.
Dr Vautrey told Radio 4's Today programme: 'The pressures on services are incredible but we recognise that there aren't enough GPs, there aren't enough nurses.
'To resolve that we need the Secretary of State, we need the Government, to act to do what they promised – which is to recruit 6,000 more GPs, to invest in our premises, to invest in our staff and our service – and by doing that we will get a better service for our patients.'
Asked if some patients were right in believing they had received worse care because of being denied face-to-face appointments, the doctors' union representative said: 'No, I don't think that.'
He said doctors understood patients' frustrations and would always see them face-to-face when 'necessary to do so'.
He also insisted consultations would always be offered in person where patients needed physical examinations.
'We want to see our patients too. We need the number of GPs to increase to do that and we need the space within our surgeries to be able to do that safely,' Dr Vautrey added.
It comes as:
The Government said the number of people who died with the disease today brought the UK total up to 135,147.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 159,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate.
It comes after the school rollout of jabs for children aged 12 to 15 was given the go ahead last week, with the vaccinations set to start on Wednesday.
But Professor Finn said parents were justified in waiting an extra three to six months to get their children jabbed until the risks were made clearer with further research, the Times reported.
Professor Finn added today the decision on whether to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds is not black and white, adding that while it is not 'essential' for them to have a coronavirus jab, it is also 'perfectly sensible' for them to do so.
He told Times Radio: 'It's a finely balanced decision. It's not a black and white decision. It's not essential that these children receive the vaccine, but equally it's a perfectly sensible thing to do.
'It's being offered because the benefits do outweigh the risks, and it's available for people who want it. And I'm afraid that's the truth of the situation.'
He said the reason the process for deciding whether to vaccinate the age group has been 'convoluted and complex' is because there 'isn't a completely clear, straightforward answer'.
But he added that people should not become too 'agonised' about it, adding: 'Because the risks on either side are not that high. It's not like these children are at great risk from Covid, or indeed that they're at great risk from the vaccination.'
He also called on the NHS to spell out the potential long-term consequences of the jab for children, warning vaccinating children without properly discussing the potential risks could undermine future take up and fuel anti-vaxx scepticism.
Around one in 100,000 children suffer heart inflammation and scarring after the jab, putting them at higher risk of arrhythmia and sudden cardiac arrest, current research suggests.
Vaccines are usually tested rigorously before they are rolled out to the general population, but the Covid jab was developed at such speed the research for possible risks for children is still catching up.
Parents are therefore justified in waiting three to six months for more evidence on the possible long-term effects before getting their children vaccinated, Finn said, describing delaying the decision as 'perfectly legitimate'.
Finn and Guido Pieles, a consultant cardiologist who advised the JCVI, added they actually suggest parents wait for more research to be conducted.
People should be tolerant of parents who have their children vaccinated against Covid and of those who decide not to, Finn added.
He said he is concerned some parents and children could be stigmatised according to what they decide when it comes to coronavirus vaccines for 12 to 15-year-olds.
The JCVI looked at the risk of health inflammation - known as myocarditis - in young people given the Pfizer vaccine, which was still very small but slightly more common after a second dose
Public Health England today published of a guide (pictured) to Covid-19 vaccination for children and young people
UK’s high Covid rates mean foreign travel barriers ‘churlish’, says expert
Travellers could be as likely to catch Covid on a trip to Torquay as one to Turkey, an expert has said, as international travel rules were relaxed.
The easing of rules on quarantine and testing for international travellers will 'inevitably increase the risk' of infections from abroad, Dr Simon Clarke said.
But the associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading added that high rates in the UK mean it would be 'churlish' to have obstacles in the way of foreign travel.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday that the traffic light system is to be replaced from October 4 by a single, reduced, 'red list' of destinations, from where travellers arriving in England will have to quarantine in a Government-supervised hotel.
People who are fully vaccinated will no longer need a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list destinations, and from the end of October they will be able to replace the day two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test.
Dr Clarke said that while people being double jabbed against the virus does reduce the risk of transmission, it is 'not zero'.
He said: 'Given the fact that community transmission within the UK is still running at a high level, it seems churlish to put high barriers in the way of international travel when the risks of catching Covid at home are relatively high.
'With infection rates as high as they are in the UK, and with vaccines offering good but not perfect protection, you may be as likely to pick up Covid from a trip to Torquay as a trip to Turkey.'
With changes to testing rules, he warned that the 'more accurate' PCR tests should be used to confirm results of quicker lateral flow tests.
Travel providers have already reported a peak in interest since the announcement, with one saying there had been a 'phenomenal reaction'.
Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said bookings had spiked 'by more than 250 per cent'.
He told Times Radio: 'I absolutely do fear that... I've had a lot of people contact me with very strong views.
'Either that they insist that they wish their children to be immunised without delay, or that they would rather die than have their children immunised, so there are plenty of people out there with very strong views, and those could easily translate into quite aggressive attitudes, one way, in one direction or the other.
'I think people should be tolerant of each other. Parents who have their children immunised should be tolerant of those that decide not to and vice versa because the stakes are not high on either side.'
Former vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has insisted the vaccine is safe for children, saying the decision to offer the jab to 12 to 15-year-olds had followed advice from the JCVI.
The scientific community had been split over vaccinating healthy children against Covid because the virus poses such a low risk to them.
No10's own advisory panel said earlier this month that immunising healthy under-16s would only provide 'marginal' benefit to their health, and not enough to recommend a mass rollout.
The decision was left with Professor Whitty and chief medical officers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who looked at the wider benefits to society, including keeping classrooms open.
The decision to offer teens the jabs was 'unanimously approved' by the UK's four chief medical officers earlier this week.
The chief medical officers said that even though Covid poses a small risk to children's health, the negative impacts of school closures on their life prospects and mental wellbeing tipped the balance in favour of vaccination.
Modelling of the winter term estimated that without the vaccines there could be about 89,000 infections among 12 to 15-year-olds, compared to 59,000 with the rollout.
Without vaccination they warn of 320,000 school absences by March, whereas this could be reduced to 220,000 with the jabs.
They have recommended under-16s initially only be offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which has shown to be up to 55 per cent effective at preventing infection from the Delta variant.
A decision on second doses is still to be determined when more data is available internationally, with a decision expected by the spring term at the earliest.
Officials will weigh up the risk of heart complications, which are slightly more common after the second shot.
The JCVI has already recommended that children and young people aged 12 to 17 with specific underlying health conditions, and children and young people who are aged 12 years and over who are household contacts of people who are immunocompromised are offered two doses of a vaccine.
Under-16s in the US, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, and the Netherlands, have already been offered jabs.