The UK has recorded another 52 coronavirus deaths in its daily update – the lowest number since early October.
Both figures are also down on the 5,177 coronavirus cases and 82 deaths posted last Sunday, with the latter at their lowest since 50 were reported on 12 October.
More than 24 million people have now had a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with another 512,108 jabs administered yesterday.
It takes the total number of people who have had their first dose to 24,196,211, while 1,584,909 have now also had their second jab – a rise of 52,155.
The rate of vaccinations could accelerate dramatically in the coming days, with front line staff on standby to go to “maximum capacity” and inoculate twice as many people from next week as supplies increase.
The statistics will provide some encouragement to ministers as lockdown rules across the UK begin to be eased.
Yesterday, Wales’s “stay at home” rule was replaced with “stay local”, with people there given more leeway on socialising outdoors and outdoor sports facilities also allowed to reopen.
Hairdressers are also opening for appointments from Monday.
In England, the rule of six and organised sport is set to return from 29 March – just over two weeks away.
Separately, the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium is going to be used as a test for the return of larger audiences at sporting events, theatres and gigs.
A decision on how many people will be allowed to go is yet to be made – but Sky Sports News has been told the government is in talks over the potential of up to 20,000 fans attending the match.
It comes as Sky News revealed how the lockdown has seen an upsurge in mental health emergencies for air ambulance crews.
Airborne medics in Northern Ireland – where there is no specific timetable for the easing of lockdown – say there has been a rise in the number of serious injuries they attend caused by attempted suicide.
Elsewhere, the Republic of Ireland has halted the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab after reports some people who had the therapeutic were getting blood clots.
That’s despite the World Health Organisation saying just two days ago that the vaccine was “excellent” and “no causal relationship had been established between the shot and the health problems reported”.
Ireland’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said: “It has not been concluded that there is any link between the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca and these cases.
“However, acting on the precautionary principle, and pending receipt of further information, the [National Immunisation Advisory Committee] has recommended the temporary deferral of the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination programme in Ireland.”
(c) Sky News 2021: COVID-19: UK records lowest number of coronavirus deaths since early October