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Coronavirus: Infections plummet as UK records another drop in daily deaths
21 November 2020, 17:04 | Updated: 22 November 2020, 10:04
A further 341 people have died with coronavirus in the UK with another 19,875 confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.
Today's deaths bring the total official death toll to 54,626, with the total number of people who have tested positive since the start of the pandemic reaching 1,493,383.
Today’s figures compare to the 20,252 new cases seen yesterday and 511 deaths.
Last Saturday there were 26,860 new cases and 375 deaths.
The DHSC figures cover deaths in all settings, including the wider community and care homes.
The figures come after more than two weeks of England's second coronavirus lockdown, with the government aiming to lift restrictions on Wednesday 2 December.
On Friday, the Office for National Statistics’ Covid infection study showed daily infections dropped by nearly 9,000 on average in the week to November 14.
But the study also showed there is still large regional disparities with cases still on the rise in London and the south east.
Separately, NHS England confirmed the deaths of a further 316 people who tested positive for coronavirus and died in hospital in England.
It comes amid the news that families could be allowed to meet for up to a week over Christmas as part of a UK-wide relaxation of coronavirus rules, it has been reported.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a Downing Street briefing it was still too early to say what contact people will be able to have over the festive period, but it has been reported Boris Johnson is preparing to announce a plan next week for an easing of rules.
Several families could be allowed to join a bubble and to mix between December 22 and 28, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The newspaper said Mr Johnson will also warn the level of restrictions for the rest of next month would depend on how well the public obeys the current lockdown in England.
Downing Street declined to comment, but did not deny the report.
Earlier this week Public Health England said Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) guidance had suggested each day of greater freedom could require five days of tighter measures.
But deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who also appeared at the briefing, said there is "no magic number" about how many days any easing of the rules might cost.
Meanwhile Mr Hancock said he is increasingly hopeful of some kind of normality by spring, as he confirmed the UK's health regulator is assessing a coronavirus vaccine which could potentially be rolled out next month.
He described the consideration by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as "another important step forward in tackling this pandemic".
Referring to the "ray of light" that a vaccine may bring, he confirmed he had formally asked the regulator to assess the vaccine and that, if approved, a jab could be rolled out from December.
He said: "If the regulator approves a vaccine we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of roll-out in the new year.
"We are heading in the right direction but there is still a long way to go."
Striking an optimistic tone, Mr Hancock said that with the news of vaccine breakthroughs in recent weeks, coupled with an expansion in mass testing, he is "more and more confident" that life will be closer to normal by spring.