Daily coronavirus infections have dropped by more than 6,000 – a day after they hit a record number.
Some 27,301 lab-confirmed infections were announced by the government on Friday.
This was 6,169 less than 33,470 on Thursday, which was the highest ever number during the pandemic.
The large drop-off in cases will raise hopes Thursday’s number was a one-off spike, as opposed to a new pattern of increasing infections.
Nonetheless, 27,301 remains the second highest number of infections recorded in a day.
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However, the government has previously said more than 100,000 people a day were getting COVID-19 at the peak of the first wave in April, a time when testing capacity was far lower and less infections were being picked up.
Meanwhile, the government said a further 376 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID, bringing the UK total to 51,304.
The latest daily figures came after positive news from the government’s top scientific advisers, who said the reproduction “R” rate has dropped across the country.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the R is now between 1 and 1.2 across the UK: down from between 1.1 and 1.3 in the past few weeks.
If the R value is above 1, it means the spread of the virus is continuing to increase. When below 1, it shows the outbreak is in retreat.
As a result, Sage warned deaths and demand for healthcare will carry on unless R drops below 1 for an extended period of time.
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