The UK’s coronavirus hospital death toll has increased by 454 – the lowest rise on a Sunday for four weeks and down 34 per cent on the total a week ago.
England reported 410 new fatalities, Wales had 28, Northern Ireland recorded nine and Scotland had seven.
By comparison, the tolls announced on recent Sundays were 622 on January 31, 682 on January 24, 671 on January 17, 573 on January 10, and 448 on January 3.
The highest increase on a Sunday was 710 on April 12 (Easter Sunday), when the UK was going through its first peak of the pandemic.
Sunday totals tend to be lower due to a lag in reporting weekend deaths.
It is the latest sign that deaths are trending downwards and mirroring a recent fall in confirmed cases as the UK emerges from the peak of its second wave.
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The latest figures were revealed as the vaccines minister looked to allay fears about the more infectious South African variant of coronavirus after a study found the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offered only limited protection against mild disease caused by the mutation.
The study into the E484K mutation involved some 2,000 people, most of whom were young and healthy, meaning further data is required.
The Government vaccine tsar, Nadhim Zahawi, said the research showed the Oxford jab “does protect against severe disease”.
But Covid-19 researcher at Imperial College London, Professor Robin Shattock, said even though the AstraZeneca variant study was small, it brought with it fresh worries about the South Africa variant.
“It is concerning to some extent that we’re seeing that it’s not effective against mild or moderate disease,” he told BBC Breakfast.
As the virus continues to adapt against the current vaccines on offer, Mr Zahawi suggested an annual rollout of booster jabs was likely to be required.
The minister also disclosed that nearly 1,000 vaccines a minute were provided in an hour on Saturday morning as the Government strives to meet its target of giving all over-70s and frontline healthcare workers their first dose by February 15.
Here is a look at the Covid-19 situation in each UK nation on Sunday.
NHS England announced a further 410 deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in NHS hospitals in England to 75,767.
There have been a further 461 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 196,060.
Public Health Wales reported another 28 deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 4,989.
It said a total of 589,622 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had now been given.
The agency said 2,606 second doses were also given.
In total, 85.3 per cent of those over 80 have received their first dose of the vaccine, along with 78.4 per cent of care home residents and 81.9 per cent of care home staff.
The death toll in Northern Ireland climbed to 1,931 after nine further fatalities were reported.
The Department of Health also reported 334 new cases.
Scotland’s death toll is now 6,438 after the Scottish Government reported seven new fatalities.
The total number of confirmed cases increased by 584 to 185,792.
A total of 1,710 people were in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19. Of those, 108 were in intensive care.
The Scottish Government said 839,266 people have received the first dose of the Covid vaccination and 10,582 have received their second dose.
-- to www.mirror.co.uk