Public Health England reported 24,885 new Covid cases on Saturday, a decrease of more than 2,000 infections from Friday's case count.
Saturday's death toll was also down – recording nine fewer deaths than Friday – with 18 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.
The new figures were published as the government is considering plans to drop isolation rules for double-jabbed people who have been in contact with a Covid case, Downing Street has confirmed, amid a warning that up to a million people a day will be forced into quarantine unless rules are relaxed.
Ministers are expected to agree that the fully vaccinated will not only be exempt from having to stay at home for 10 days, but will only be "advised" to take daily tests, with no legal requirement to do so.
This is despite official estimates reportedly suggesting such a move could see infections rise by up to 26 per cent, and a warning by scientific adviser Professor Robert West that the plans could breed "resentment" among those not eligible for such an exemption, thus undermining compliance with the rules.
The chair of the doctors' union, Chaand Nagpaul, urged ministers not to take an "all or nothing" approach – and to instead keep some "sensible, cautious" measures in place in order to stop spiralling cases of the Delta variant having a "devastating impact" on the NHS and the economy.
- Covid vaccine centres warned against offering early second doses
- Millions of Britons given Indian-made AstraZeneca doses 'could be excluded from EU vaccine passport scheme'
- Keep 'sensible' Covid rules after 19 July, say doctors
- Boris Johnson says 'extra precautions' may have to stay in place after July 19 lockdown lifting
Good morning, we'll be using this live blog to follow all of the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic.
Covid vaccine centres warned against offering early second doses
Health authorities are cracking down on vaccination centres breaking rank with official guidance and offering early second doses to young people, amid "confusion" over the best time to receive their follow-up jab, our science correspondent Samuel Lovett reports .
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised that second doses should be given no earlier than eight weeks after a first jab, citing evidence which shows that the longer interval provides higher levels of protection than the usual three-week gap.
But many GP-run sites and large-scale vaccination centres have defied these orders, which are enforced by NHS England, in order to fully vaccinate people ahead of 19 July and ensure their stock does not go to waste.
Last weekend, the Science Museum in London was slapped down by NHS officials after offering out second Pfizer jabs to anyone who had received their first dose more than 21 days ago. On Friday, Wembley Stadium announced it was providing a similar service but was later told to stop.
Many GP-run centres and large-scale vaccination site have defied national orders and opted to offer early second doses to people, in a bid to get them fully immunised before 19 July
Keep 'sensible' Covid rules after 19 July, say doctors
Leading doctors from the British Medical Association are urging the government to keep some measures in place after 19 July in England amid an "alarming" rise in cases.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said easing restrictions was not an "all or nothing" decision and that "sensible, cautious" measures will be vital to minimising the impact of further waves, new variants and lockdowns.
"As case numbers continue to rise at an alarming rate due to the rapid transmission of the Delta variant and an increase in people mixing with one another, it makes no sense to remove restrictions in their entirety in just over two weeks’ time," Dr Nagpaul said.
"The promise was to make decisions based on data and not dates, and while we were pleased to see the government react to data in delaying the easing on June 21 last month, ministers must not now simply disregard the most recent, damning, numbers by rushing into meeting their new July 19 deadline.
Dr Nagpaul said that, while the hospitalisations remained low compared to the rise in cases, the numbers were "increasing at pace" with twice as many Covid patients in beds and on ventilators than this time last month.
My colleague Charlene Rodrigues has more details on our lead story this morning:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is confident he can go ahead with the final phase of his plans to end England's lockdown on July 19
While the new health secretary Sajid Javid is yet to lay out the details of what the rules – if any remain – will look like beyond 19 July, he has confirmed his intention for Step 4 of the road map to go ahead on that date.
But he has stopped short of confirming to MPs that will mean the end of every measure.
In his most recent comments on the matter, made on a visit to Sunderland's Nissan factory on Thursday, Boris Johnson said that some "extra precautions" may remain in place.
"We’ll be wanting to go back to a world that is as close to the status quo, ante-Covid, as possible. Try to get back to life as close to it was before Covid," the prime minister said.
"But there may be some things we have to do, extra precautions that we have to take, but I’ll be setting them out [in the next few days]".
Reported plans to allow double-jabbed to skip self-isolation 'could harm compliance'
Ministers' reported plans to allow those who have been double vaccinated to skip self-isolation if they come into contact with someone with coronavirus risk breeding public resentment and undermining compliance, a government adviser has warned.
Robert West, professor in health psychology at University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health, told Times Radio he could "see the rationale" for the policy, but added: "There are significant problems with it and at the moment those problems outweigh potential benefits."
Prof West, who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours, which advises Sage, said: "The most serious problem is that if you have a situation where not everyone has been even offered the vaccine then you’ve already got clearly a huge unfairness."
"When you get unfairness in situations like this, you get resentment and when you get resentment you can get loss of compliance," he said, adding that "the only possible scenario"where the policy might work was "a long way down the line" when everyone has been offered a second dose.
But Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer in communicable diseases at the University of Exeter's medical school, said he thought the plans were "perfectly okay".
"The gold standard would be to be cautious even if you have been immunised twice – in other words, fully immunised," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"However, as a measured action going forward I think it is okay and my reasons are as follows: an immunised person is less infectious and furthermore the testing of people who are in quarantine isolating is pretty inaccurate, so balancing both, I think it is perfectly okay."
NHS must catch up on routine treatments to avoid 'severe' impact of slight rise in Covid deaths, expert says
It would only take a slight rise in deaths to put severe pressure on the health service, an expert has warned.
Robert West, professor in health psychology at UCL’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health, told Times Radio that infection rates were "getting out of control", adding: "The hope is that of course that it won’t reach the levels that we saw in January, but it doesn’t have to because the NHS has already been so badly hit, and the staff are so stressed now.
“We have to catch up on routine [treatments], so it wouldn’t take a lot for the NHS to be very severely affected."
Millions of Britons given Indian-made AstraZeneca doses 'could be excluded from EU vaccine passport scheme'
In case you missed it yesterday, it was reported that millions of Britons could be shut out of European holidays because some AstraZeneca jabs are not automatically recognised by the EU vaccine passport scheme.
The new EU Covid certificate, designed to open up travel for those immunised against the virus, does not include batches of the vaccine produced in India because they have not been approved by the European Medicines Agency, Alastair Jamieson reports .
The UK is among many countries to have approved the so-called Covishield version of the AZ jab, made by the Serum Institute of India. It is chemically identical to the original AZ version.
Up to 5 million Indian-made doses have been administered in the UK, the Daily Telegraph reported, adding that those Britons could be turned away at EU border crossings.
Millions of Britons given Indian-made AstraZeneca doses 'could be excluded from EU vaccine passport scheme'
Germany, Spain and others are reportedly willing to accept Indian-made doses of the AZ vaccine
The latest government figures show that 45 million people in the UK have now received a coronavirus vaccine dose.
According to Friday's data, some 33.2 million second doses have also been administered.
French health minister plays down talk of mandatory vaccination
France's health minister Olivier Véran has played down talk of making vaccination against coronavirus mandatory, telling reporters on a visit to a Paris care home: "We will not force the French to be vaccinated. That's not for the general population."
According to The Times , prime minister Jean Castex has asked MPs and state authorities to propose ways of extending mandatory vaccination to all adults in a bid to counter the country's high levels of vaccine hesitancy. Plans are currently underway to ensure healthcare workers are vaccinated.
Amid reports of growing support for such a move among experts, Dominique Le Guludec, head of the High Council on Health, which advises the government, suggested it could be necessary to consider compulsory vaccination for those over the age of 12, depending on the outcome of future studies.
Speaking in reference to possible laws for the mandatory vaccination of health workers, Le Parisien reported her in French as saying: "We are sorry to arrive at obligatory vaccination. We always thought it was better to persuade people."
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