Coronavirus is “in retreat across the land”, health secretary Matt Hancock has claimed after Britain recorded its lowest daily death rate since March 21.
Mr Hancock said the UK was now “winning the battle against Covid-19” after England and Wales recorded a total of 55 deaths and no new deaths were announced in Scotland and Northern Ireland for the second consecutive day.
The number of new UK cases on Monday – 1,205 – is also the lowest number since the start of lockdown.
“Coronavirus is in retreat across the land”, Mr Hancock said.
“Our plan is working and these downward trends mean we can proceed with our plans. But we do so putting caution and safety first.
“Even at the peak of this pandemic we protected the NHS and ensured that it was not overwhelmed, and we will not allow a second peak that overwhelms the NHS.”
The total number of people in the UK who have died after testing positive for Covid-19 now stands at 40,597, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
Mr Hancock, answering a question from north-east MP Andrew Bowie in the Commons, said the “whole UK approach” to tackling Covid-19 had been “hugely positive”.
He said: “There has been very encouraging progress and all of the significant data points in the same direction, which is downwards and that is incredibly important, it’s a testament to the efforts of everybody across the whole United Kingdom.
“This country is coming through this and we are winning the battle against this disease.”
But if the infection rate began to surge, Mr Hancock told Gordon MP Richard Thomson that he was “prepared to reintroduce measures” to control the infection.
It comes after the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) found the R infection rate was 0.7-0.9 in the UK, and slightly higher for England at 0.7-1.
This country is coming through this and we are winning the battle against this disease.”
The findings prompted alarm from some, who warned lockdown was being eased too quickly in England.
But Mr Hancock insisted that overall, the R number was below 1 in each region of the UK and rejected calls for the lockdown to be altered at differing a local levels.
The comments came as new quarantine measures came into force across the UK which require anyone returning from abroad to go into self-isolation for 14 days on penalty of a fine.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary warned today (Monday) that the move would cost millions of tourism jobs.
Mr O’Leary said: “We’re seeing thousands of British families booking their holidays in Portugal, in Spain and Italy, but there’s almost a collapse of inward bookings bringing those Italians, bringing those Europeans here to the UK, on which Britain’s tourism industry depends, particularly in the peak months of July and August.
“What’s irrational about it is all of those countries have a much lower Covid rate than the UK.”