U.K. COVID Cases Fall as Restrictions Ease, Giving Hope to Rest of World

The amount of COVID cases being recorded in the U.K. has consistently fallen over the last week, despite restrictions being completely lifted for large parts of England and partially in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

On Sunday, the U.K. recorded 29,173 new COVID cases, which was a dramatic decrease from the 48,161 that were seen on July 18, meaning the number of new infections logged fell for five days in a row for the first time since February, according to the Department of Health.

The amount of positive tests recorded in the U.K. also fell about 15 percent over a seven-day period, as the department recorded 28 deaths within 28 days of a positive test on Sunday, which was down from the 60 that were reported a week earlier.

The figures were released close to a week after England lifted its COVID restrictions on Monday, July 19, as nightclubs reopened and mask wearing stopped being mandatory. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still have their own restrictions in place.

Speaking to reporters about the decrease in cases and deaths on Monday, the spokesperson for U.K Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the figures were "encouraging," but warned that residents were not yet "out of the woods" as the cases linked to the lifting of restrictions will not be known for another couple of weeks.

"The Prime Minister doesn't think we're out of the woods yet and has stressed many times before that the pandemic isn't over," the spokesperson said on Monday.

"We've said before when we moved to Step 4, that allowing large numbers of people to meet in indoor settings would have an impact on case numbers. We won't have seen the impact of Step 4 yet in terms of case numbers so as we always do, we will continue to keep all the stats under review."

Dr Stephen Griffin, Associate Professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, echoed Johnson in a statement to the Science Media Centre, saying that: "The recent fall in cases in England is great news, but also puzzling given that progressive relaxation of restrictions has occurred, with the final release of all measures last week."

Griffin warned that the U.K. is in a "waiting game" with the figures released over the next two weeks to see if increases in interactions over the summer "translate to new infections."

The Department of Health confirmed on Sunday that 46,563,452 people have now had a first dose of a COVID vaccine in the U.K., while 37,160,659 had received a second dose.

The consistent fall in cases in the U.K. over the last week could present good news for other countries in Europe and for the U.S., as the recent focus has been on relaxing restrictions and using vaccinations to get countries out of the pandemic.

According to figures collated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. has so far recorded 188,472,188 people with one dose of a vaccine, which equates to about 56 percent of the population.

While at least 163,025,726 residents are now fully vaccinated in the country, equating to around 49 percent of the population.

Masks Still Recommended

A majority of states have lifted their restrictions in relation to the pandemic, although the CDC is still recommending non-vaccinated people wear masks in crowded spaces.

However, the U.S. has seen a recent uptick in cases caused by the Delta Variant of COVID, causing Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, to warn on Sunday that the CDC may recommend vaccinated people still wear masks.

"We're going in the wrong direction," Dr. Fauci told CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, before describing himself as "very frustrated" with the recent increase in cases.

He went on to say that top health officials have been discussing mask guidance in the country, adding that possibly requiring vaccinated people to wear face coverings is "under active consideration."

Commuters wearing face masks walk through Notting Hill Gate station on July 13, 2021, in London, England. COVID cases fell by 15 percent on average over the last week. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images