Weekly coronavirus deaths have fallen by almost a third within seven days and remain at the lowest level since before the lockdown, official statistics show.
There were 366 deaths registered in the week ending July 10 involving Covid-19 – accounting for 4.2% of all deaths in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
This is a 31.2% fall from the previous week, when there were 532 deaths where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.
It is also the fourth week in a row that deaths have been below the number that would usually be expected at this time of year, based on an average from the previous five years.
There were a total of 8,690 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to July 10, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 560 fewer than the five-year average of 9,250.
The number of deaths in care homes and hospitals was also below the five-year average (283 and 901 deaths lower respectively).
But the number of deaths in private homes remains above the average, with 706 deaths higher during the week.
The ONS said the pandemic is likely to have brought forward some deaths of vulnerable or elderly people, which could explain the period of below-average deaths currently being experienced.
Deaths involving Covid-19 decreased in all English regions. All but the East of England had fewer overall deaths than the five-year average.
In Wales, the total number of deaths was six below the five-year average.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “Whilst every death is a tragedy, this data is hugely promising. #Coronavirus deaths have fallen for the 12th consecutive week & for the 4th consecutive week, total deaths in Britain are lower than normal for this time of year.”
Tuesday’s release takes the number of deaths registered in the UK involving Covid-19 to just over 56,100.
Some 51,096 deaths involving Covid-19 had occurred in England and Wales up to July 10, and had been registered by July 18.
Figures published last week by the National Records for Scotland showed that 4,187 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Scotland up to July 12, while 844 deaths had occurred in Northern Ireland up to July 10 (and had been registered up to July 15) according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
Together these figures mean that so far 56,127 deaths have been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases.
Professor Sheila Bird, former programme leader at the MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, said the Government should look into ensuring coroner-referred deaths of frontline workers are investigated ahead of the winter.
The ONS figures show that 18 deaths involving Covid-19 occurred during March 31 to May 16 but were first registered in the week of July 11 to 18, therefore having a delay of between eight and 15 weeks.
She said: “At least some inquests into coroner-referred deaths of healthcare workers or social care workers should be expedited so that any lesson to be learned that could prevent fatalities in a second wave of Covid-19 disease are shared in time for prevention of winter deaths.”