COVID-19: UK records highest daily coronavirus cases for more than two months - as England's R number rises

·3-min read

The UK has recorded a further 6,238 coronavirus cases - the highest daily figure for more than two months - as England's R number continues to rise.

The latest government numbers also show another 11 COVID-19 related deaths.

The number for cases is up on the 5,274 recorded on Thursday but the death figure is down on the 18 recorded in yesterday's daily figures.

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The number of cases is the highest since 25 March, when 6,397 were recorded.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) earlier updated its estimate for England's R number to be between 1 and 1.2, up from between 1 and 1.1 previously.

This means that for every 10 people with COVID, between 10 and 12 more people will catch the virus.

When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially but when it is below 1, it means the epidemic is shrinking.

Meanwhile, another 191,266 first and 377,641 second vaccine doses were administered, bringing the total number of people who have had one jab to 39,949,694 and those who have had two to 26,799,944.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that a rise of cases was to be expected as the country came out of lockdown.

He said: "We always expected cases to rise as the country was opened up, the critical thing is the impact on the number of people who end up in hospital for any given number of cases.

"That link has been broken by the vaccine, but it hasn't been completely severed yet.

"That's one of the things that we're watching very carefully, and it's too early to say what the decision will be ahead of 21 June, but we'll make sure people know in good time."

It comes amid the news that the UK's medicines regulator approved the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the decision followed a "rigorous review" of safety and effectiveness in that age group - and that the benefits of having the COVID jab outweighed the risks.

Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said: "We have in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved COVID-19 vaccines and this surveillance will include the 12- to 15-year age group."

The move follows coronavirus cases in the community rocketing by 76.5% in just one week, according to official data for England.

And Public Health England (PHE) officials said that the Delta variant - first identified in India - has now overtaken the Alpha (Kent) variant as the most dominant strain in the UK.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that 85,600 people in the country had COVID-19 in the week to 29 May - equating to around one in 640 people in private households.

This is the highest level since the week to 16 April and is up from 48,500 people - one in 1,120 people - in the week ending 22 May.

The figures are likely to be among the data considered by the prime minister as he decides on whether to drop the last coronavirus restrictions on 21 June.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure to press ahead with the unlocking - dubbed "freedom day" by some - following the successful rollout of vaccines, despite the rise in cases.

Analysis: Scientists predicted a new wave of cases, but vaccines are effective

By Thomas Moore, Science correspondent

COVID cases are once again rising fast, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics.

But the increase is concentrated in a few hotspots, predominantly the north-west of England. Elsewhere cases are drifting upwards much more slowly.

The surge of infections in children across the country is more of a concern. They have lots of contact with adults so they could spread the virus in lots of different directions.

Government scientists had predicted a third wave of cases once the brakes came off lockdown.

But two shots of the vaccine are highly effective against even the Delta variant, which should blunt any increase in hospital admissions and deaths.

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