Another 5,534 COVID-19 cases and 121 deaths have been recorded in the UK, while the number of people vaccinated has hit 23.6 million.

New cases are down on Friday’s figures (6,609) and last Saturday’s (6,040) – and deaths are also down on the 175 and 158 recorded on those dates.

Some 23,684,103 first jabs have now been given out, while 1,532,754 people have also had their second.

Just over 457,000 vaccination doses were administered in the latest 24-hour period – and the rate of jabs could accelerate dramatically in the coming days.

Front line vaccination staff are on standby to go to “maximum capacity” and inoculate twice as many people from next week.

The move to ramp up the rollout comes as supplies of coronavirus doses are due to “substantially increase”.

The rapid expansion will raise hopes the target to vaccinate all adults by the end of July could be brought forward.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told MPs this week he was “expecting tens of millions of doses to come through”, leading to a “rapid increase” in the number of people being injected.

The UK has been using vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca so far, and is expecting its first batch from US drugs company Moderna – which has been key to the similarly fast rollout in America – this month.

Meanwhile, the prime minister has backed a national day of reflection to mark the anniversary of the first lockdown.

End-of-life charity Marie Curie is planning the day for 23 March to remember those who have died across the UK during the pandemic.

As the UK nations start easing their latest lockdowns, Wales has lifted its “stay at home” order and relaxed its outdoor meeting rules as part of a gradual relaxation of the country’s restrictions.

And almost 50,000 businesses have signed up for the government’s free workplace COVID-19 tests, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

The government claims it is a vital step towards restoring normal life following the pandemic.

Tests can give a result within 30 minutes – and NHS Test and Trace analysis suggests they have a specificity of at least 99.9%.

(c) Sky News 2021: New COVID cases and deaths fall as number of people vaccinated in UK hits 23.6m

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