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UK records more than 50,000 new Covid cases in a day for first time since January
16 July 2021, 16:06 | Updated: 16 July 2021, 16:41
The UK has recorded more than 50,000 cases within 24 hours today - the highest daily rise since mid-January.
It comes ahead of Monday's 'Freedom Day', with concern about how coronavirus will spread after England relaxes the last of its social distancing laws.
A total of 51,870 were reported on the Government's Covid data dashboard, while 49 further deaths have been reported.
Cases were always expected to rise and ministers had expected to see them climb to 50,000 a day, but they hope enough vaccinations have been given out to weaken the link between rising infections and deaths.
That will be crucial in ensuring waves of hospitalisations and fatalities don't overwhelm the NHS, which was a key driver in implementing lockdown, following July 19.
All laws related to social distancing measures enforced during the pandemic are due to be lifted in England from Monday.
This means limits on group sizes and mask wearing will fall away – though guidance recommends people should not completely dispense with social distancing.
Face coverings will also be required on public transport such as London's Tube and buses following mayor Sadiq Khan's intervention, while Boris Johnson has said people should exercise personal responsibility.
The rising cases come as England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the UK is "not out of the woods yet", despite Mr Johnson's claim that it is "highly probable" the worst of the pandemic is over.
Prof Whitty said: "I don't think we should underestimate the fact that we could get into trouble again surprisingly fast."
And the British Medical Association's council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "The BMA has repeatedly warned of the rapidly rising infection rate and the crippling impact that Covid-related hospitalisations continue to have on the NHS, not only pushing staff to the brink of collapse but also driving up already lengthy waiting times for elective care.
"The prime minister repeatedly emphasised the importance of a slow and cautious approach but, in reality, the government is throwing caution to the wind by scrapping all regulations in one fell swoop."