The number of COVID-19 infections in the UK has dropped to less than half the level recorded at start of the year when all four nations were in full lockdown, new data shows.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), an estimated 552,900 people had coronavirus in the week ending 12 February.
In the first week of January, an estimated 1,256,600 people had COVID-19 in the UK.
The latest ONS infection survey estimates around one in 115 people in England had COVID-19 between 6 and 12 February, down from around one in 80 the previous week. It is the lowest figure since the week ending 5 December, when the estimate also stood at one in 115 people.
During the same time period around one in 125 people are estimated to have had COVID-19 in Wales.
In Northern Ireland, the ONS estimates around one in 105 people were infected. The figure for Scotland is around one in 180 people, down from one in 150.
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The ONS figures refer to infections in the community and exclude people in hospitals, care homes and/or other institutional settings.
The data shows that overall infection levels decreased in every region of England. Infections associated with the new coronavirus variant, first identified in Kent last year, also declined in all regions.
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) February 19, 2021
The numbers are the latest encouraging sign that lockdown is driving down infections across the UK.
On Monday, Boris Johnson will set out his plan for lifting restrictions in England.
The PM will first announce the opening of schools, and has signalled he plans to take a cautious approach when it comes to other measures.
On Friday, Wales’s lockdown rules were extended for another three weeks, but with schools opening for the youngest pupils from Monday.
First minister Mark Drakeford said stay-at-home restrictions could be eased in March, due to falling numbers of cases and reduced pressures on hospitals.
From Saturday, minor changes to rules will include allowing up to four people from two households being allowed to exercise together outdoors, but only if they live in the same area and begin their exercise “from their own front doors”.
On Thursday, Northern Ireland’s lockdown was extended to April, but with some primary school pupils will returning to class on 8 March.
The Stormont Executive decided to keep the majority of the current restrictions in place until 1 April.
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