Britain recorded nearly 10,000 fewer Covid cases on Thursday when compared to the same day last week, new figures show, raising hopes that the epidemic may be slowing.
Although the seven-day case rate continues to rise, increasing 24 per cent overall in a week, numbers have been below 50,000 for several days.
The fall in cases comes despite several mass events, including 60,000 football fans gathering for the European Championship final at Wembley, and tens of thousands at Wimbledon.
Hospital admissions and deaths are still rising but will begin to fall in the coming weeks if the number of infections continues to decline. On Thursday, a further 84 people were reported to have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus.
Public Health England (PHE) warned that case rates were still very high among younger people, with 1,154 per 100,000 of 20 to 29-year-olds now infected – the highest infection rate for any age group since the start of the pandemic – compared to 60.6 per 100,000 for the over-80s.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, the PHE medical director, said: "Everyone in this age group should come forward and get their two doses of the vaccine to make sure they have the best chance of being protected.
"Thanks to the vaccine, hospital admissions and deaths are not growing as quickly as previous waves. However, they are on the rise and we continue to closely monitor the data."
PHE also warned that children under five are driving respiratory infections to peak winter levels because they did not build up immunity during lockdown. The number of respiratory syncytial virus infections has increased seven-fold in the last five weeks, from 1.2 per cent to 8.9 per cent.
Respiratory infections peak in the winter and usually begin late September. The current level of infections is only slightly below the peak in winter 2019/20, when it reached 13.4 per cent.
Health bosses said that while still at low numbers, respiratory infections in young children are expected to rise this summer and as we go into the winter months, adding that the NHS is preparing for a rise in children needing treatment.