A total of 39,950 new coronavirus cases have been recorded in the UK on Monday, just as people across England celebrate the end of most lockdown rules on ‘Freedom Day’.
The number of recorded deaths was 19, up 48% since last Monday.
Sunday saw a total of 48,161 Covid cases recorded, according to Public Health England statistics, up by more than 50% in a week.
That while on Saturday the UK recorded its highest increase in cases in six months with 54,674 new infections.
The statistics come on the same day that the fourth and last step of the government’s roadmap to exiting lockdown takes effect, meaning most rules in place for the past 18 months to protect the public from the spread of Covid-19 will come to a halt.
As of Monday, clubs and theatres will be allowed to reopen while groups of more than six people from multiple households will be able to hang out indoors and outdoors.
Businesses will reopen, including shuttered nightclubs who can welcome party-goers back to dance floors.
Legal limits on mourners at funerals and those celebrating weddings will also end, as will school bubbles.
The legal requirement to wear face coverings (and £200 fines) is being removed completely, in all settings.
Primark is among the shops where you’ll still need to wear a face mask
But the government “expects and recommends” that people should continue to wear them, unless exempt, in crowded areas such as public transport.
On top of this, masks will continue to be a “condition of carriage” on all London public transport, the Tyne and Wear metro, Metrolink trams in Greater Manchester, and bus stations in West and South Yorkshire.
Healthcare settings will ask people to continue wearing masks, as will chains including Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Waitrose, Asda, John Lewis, Primark, Wilko, B&Q, Argos, Boots and IKEA.
Despite the euphoria felt up and down the country at life finally returning to normal, experts have warned lifting lockdown could result in the “biggest wave of infections” England has ever seen.
Ministers responded to widespread calls for Freedom Day to be delayed saying there is “no good time” to lift lockdown.
But Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told Sky News on Monday: “We are heading into the biggest wave of Covid infection that we have ever seen.
“Even though the vaccine will substantially reduce the number of deaths and hospitalisations, it’s still likely that we will see somewhere in the low tens of thousands of deaths even if we are cautious.
“And that could move into the mid and high tens of thousands of deaths if we just went back to normal activity.”
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Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is self-isolating after his Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced he had tested positive to Covid-19 on Saturday, is readying to host a remote press conference from his country residence at Chequers.
During the live stream at 5pm, the Tory leader is expected to face pressure to make the NHS app less sensitive amid claims people are needlessly being made to self-isolate.
He is set to face calls by industry chiefs for key workers to be exempt from the app ‘ping’ isolation amid concerns it will lead to staff shortages.