The number of deaths involving Covid-19 registered each week has climbed to the highest level since March in two regions of England.
North-west England saw 71 deaths registered in the week to July 16 - the highest number for the region since 106 deaths were registered in the week to March 26, according to the latest ONS figures.
And, in north-east England, 24 deaths were registered in the week to July 16 – the highest since 35 deaths in the week to March 26.
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A total of 154,661 deaths have now occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.
The highest number of deaths to occur on a single day was 1,483 on January 19.
During the first wave of the virus, the daily toll peaked at 1,461 deaths on April 8 2020.
The latest data comes as the UK as a whole has seen falling infection rates for six consecutive days, prompting some to speculate the latest wave of the pandemic was finally peaking.
Professor Neil Ferguson – whose modelling led to the first lockdown in March 2020 – said caution is still needed, but offered a hopeful outlook for autumn.
It will be “several more weeks” before the effect of the July 19 unlocking in England is known, said Prof Ferguson, from Imperial College London, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “We need to remain cautious, especially with the potential increase in contact rates again as the weather becomes less fine and schools return.
“We’re not completely out of the woods, but the equation has fundamentally changed. The effect of vaccines is hugely reducing the risk of hospitalisations and death.
“And I’m positive that by late September or October time we will be looking back at most of the pandemic.
“We will have Covid with us, we will still have people dying from Covid, but we’ll have put the bulk of the pandemic behind us.”
Further data from the ONS show some 27 care home resident deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales were registered in the week to July 16, up from 20 deaths in the previous week.
In total, 42,614 care home residents in England and Wales have had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate since the pandemic began.
The ONS figures cover deaths of care home residents in all settings, not just in care homes.
A total of 218 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending July 16 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – up 19% on the previous week.
It is the highest total since 260 deaths in the week to April 23.