The UK’s daily figure for coronavirus deaths has dropped to 170 – the lowest since the day after lockdown began.
The announcement comes a week after the first easing of restrictions in England – and while numbers are typically lower on Sundays, the figure is almost 100 fewer than the 268 reported a week ago.
But the overall death toll remains the highest in Europe, and is now 34,636.
Meanwhile in Spain, the daily number of deaths dropped below 100 for the first time since its lockdown started.
The UK death numbers announced on Sundays and Mondays are typically lower than the other five days of the week, due to fluctuations in how quickly deaths are reported by hospitals and care homes.
Sunday’s figure is the lowest since 24 March, when 149 deaths were reported. The evening before that Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the lockdown.
Spain, which introduced a strict lockdown on 14 March, announced 87 new deaths on Sunday. At its peak on 2 April, there were 961 deaths in a 24-hour period.
This is the lowest number of deaths seen in many weeks, and it’s a positive sign that we are very clearly past the peak of the disease outbreak that triggered a UK-wide lockdown.
But experts caution that reported numbers do dip every weekend – so we can expect the figures to go up a bit again during the coming week.
There is also a lag between some new infections being identified and them sadly resulting as recorded deaths.
It will take weeks to know if any easing of lockdown measures now will lead to a rise in cases and deaths, and by how much.
Experts will be watching closely for signs of a second wave of infections that threaten to overwhelm the NHS.
At Sunday’s Downing Street briefing, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine at the University of Oxford was progressing well and announced £93m to speed up a new vaccine research lab.
He added that pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca had finalised a “global licensing agreement” with Oxford and the government.
It means if the trial is successful, 30 million doses will be available for the UK by this September.