Covid: UK records lowest death toll since September as vaccines top 30m

22 March 2021, 16:17 | Updated: 22 March 2021, 19:55

The death toll over the latest 24-hour period is the lowest daily figure since September.
The death toll over the latest 24-hour period is the lowest daily figure since September. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

The UK has recorded its lowest daily death toll since September, as Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised the vaccine rollout for topping 30 million jabs and "showing the best of Britain".

In the latest 24-hour period, 17 deaths were recorded within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19 - the lowest daily figure since 28 September.

Government data up to 21 March shows that of the 30,279,360 jabs given in the UK so far, 27,997,976 were first doses - a rise of 367,006 on the previous day. Some 2,281,384 were second doses, an increase of 52,612 on the previous day.

Matt Hancock thanked those involved in the rollout, tweeting: "The vaccine roll-out is showing the best of Britain - THANK YOU to the team involved."

The health secretary also praised the "huge team effort" on Covid testing, after over 1.8 million tests were delivered on Monday.

"Mass-testing is a vital tool in our fight against Covid-19," he tweeted, adding: "Fantastic work by the testing team".

The number of people who have tested positive for the virus increased by 5,432, bringing the total number of recorded positive infections since the start of the pandemic to 4,301,925.

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The positive statistics come amidst warnings that the rapidly increasing infection rates in Europe could fuel a rise in the UK.

Speaking on a trip to Preston, Boris Johnson said: "I think one of the things worth stressing is that on the continent right now you can see, sadly, there is a third wave underway.

"People in this country should be under no illusions that previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, I am afraid it washes up on our shores as well.

"I expect that we will feel those effects in due course. That is why we are getting on with our vaccination program as fast as we can."

However, Labour have accused the prime minister of being "frankly complacent about the threat of a third wave" and are calling for "a comprehensive hotel quarantine system now".

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The pace of the UK's vaccination effort is also expected to slow next month, amid a "significant reduction" in supply.

The delay is due to the need to retest a batch of 1.7 million doses to check "its stability", as well as a delay in supplies from India.

Tensions are also high between the EU and UK over vaccine exports, amid concerns European leaders may decide to ban vaccine exports from the bloc on Thursday.

The prime minister is expected to speak with his EU counterparts this week in an attempt to stave off any export restrictions on the jabs, which reports suggest could delay the UK's vaccine rollout by up to two months.

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But, Mr Johnson appeared to downplay the issue on Monday, telling reporters: "I'm reassured by talking to EU partners over the last few months that they don't want to see blockades, I think that's very important.

"Clearly what matters to us in the UK is we get on with the rollout of the vaccine programme.

"I think we've now done over half the adults in the country, which is very good news.

"We're on course to do everybody in priority groups 1-4, they've been done, but groups 1-9, all the over 50s, by 15 April and then we'll just bash on with the road map we've set out."