The U.K. recorded no daily deaths from COVID-19 for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, according to the latest government data released on Tuesday.
The figures come after a holiday weekend when the number of deaths and cases can be lower due to reporting delays. Any deaths that happened on Tuesday will be reported in the next few days.
“The whole country will be so glad there were no COVID-related deaths recorded yesterday,” said health secretary Matt Hancock on Twitter
on Tuesday, adding that the vaccines were clearly working.
“But despite this undoubtedly good news we know we haven’t beaten this virus yet,” he added.
The U.K. has rolled out Europe’s fastest COVID-19 vaccination program, with almost three-quarters of the adult population having now had their first vaccine, according to the latest government data. The data showed that 39.4 million people have had their first dose, while 25.7 million have had their second. That means 74.9% of adults have received their first shot, and 48.9% have had both doses.
Read: Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use in the U.K.
Last week, healthcare company Johnson & Johnson’s
vaccine became the fourth to be endorsed for use in the U.K., alongside the vaccine developed jointly by U.S. drug company Pfizer
and German biotech BioNTech
; the one made by U.K.-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca
in collaboration with the University of Oxford; and biotech Moderna’s
shot. The J&J vaccine will be made available later this year.
On Monday, huge queues formed at England’s biggest vaccination center at Twickenham Stadium, after shots were offered to anyone aged 18 and over, to help speed up the pace of inoculations and not waste supplies.
Read: British authorities race to vaccinate and stay ahead of fast-spreading variant
Some experts in the U.K. have called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to delay the final easing of lockdown restrictions on June 21, amid a small spike in cases of the new variant first identified in India. The strain, now renamed as the Delta variant by the World Health Organization, has been linked to a spike in cases in some parts of the country.
Prof. Mark Walport, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told BBC Breakfast on Monday that the situation was “very delicately balanced,” as the Delta variant is more transmissible. He said more data were needed over the next two weeks to help Johnson make the “difficult decision.”
His view was echoed by Prof. Adam Finn, a member of the U.K.’s vaccine advisory committee, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, who suggested on LBC Radio that going ahead with the reopening on June 21 would be a “bad decision.”
Downing Street has indicated that Johnson still sees nothing in the data to suggest the plan to end restrictions in England on June 21 will need to be delayed. The government has said it would make an announcement on June 14 about whether the relaxation will be delayed.
Separately on Wednesday, a report in Reuters said the U.K. government is in talks with AstraZeneca and Oxford University to secure extra doses of their COVID-19 vaccine that has been tailored to better target the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa.