The number of weekly registered deaths involving coronavirus has fallen to the lowest level since lockdown was first introduced, figures show.
According to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of deaths registered in England and Wales involving Covid-19 in the week ending July 3 was 532.
It is the lowest number of deaths linked to the virus in the last 15 weeks, the ONS said.
It added: “The number of death registrations involving the coronavirus (Covid-19) decreased from 606 in Week 26 to 532 in Week 27, the lowest number of Covid-19 deaths registered since Week 12, week ending March 20, when 103 deaths involved Covid-19.
“Of all deaths registered in Week 27, 5.8% mentioned Covid-19, down from 6.7% in Week 26.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced lockdown measures on March 23 and in that week 539 deaths involving coronavirus were registered, according to ONS figures.
Dr Layla McCay, a director at the NHS Confederation, said that while the decline was a “positive development”, a second spike in cases could overwhelm the NHS.
She added: “While the number of people known to be dying with coronavirus continues to decline, this positive development comes at the same time as we have been given a horrifying warning from the Academy of Medical Sciences that without continued Government action and public vigilance, we could be faced with a second wave of Covid-19 infection this winter that could cause 120,000 deaths.
“NHS leaders are already bracing themselves for a very challenging winter, but a second wave of this magnitude would overwhelm their services.
“We note this isn’t a prediction of what will definitely happen, but it is another stark reminder that the pandemic is not over: it will be with us for a very long time.”
More than 50,548 deaths involving Covid-19 have been recorded in England and Wales during the outbreak, with the virus the main reason for deaths increasing above what would normally be expected for this period, the ONS said.
The number of deaths involving coronavirus in care homes in England that were registered by July 3 was 14,332, it added.
The number of deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK is now just under 56,000, according to the latest available data.
Figures published last week by the National Records of Scotland showed that 4,173 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Scotland up to July 5, while 839 deaths had occurred in Northern Ireland up to July 3, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
Together these figures mean that so far 55,710 deaths have been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases.
A further 181 deaths have occurred in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since July 4, according to NHS England, Public Health Wales and the Northern Ireland Department of Health.
Added together with the number of registered deaths, this means the overall Covid-19 death toll for the UK is currently just under 56,000, at 55,891.
There were a total of 9,140 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to July 3, according to the ONS, 43 fewer than the five-year average of 9,183.
This is the third week in a row that deaths have been below the five-year average.