Coronavirus daily cases fall by 2% in a week to 1,671 - while deaths rise by ...

UK coronavirus cases have dropped by two per cent in a week to 1,671 but deaths increased by three to 14 amid calls to speed up the easing of lockdown.    

The number of Covid cases fell to 1,671 from last Sunday's 1,712 as the further easing of lockdown rules looks set to go ahead on May 17.

However, today's 14 deaths marks a 27.3 per cent increase on the 11 recorded last Sunday.

It comes after Dominic Raab today admitted that some rules on wearing face masks and social distancing could remain in place beyond June 21.  

The Foreign Secretary warned 'there will still need to be some safeguards in place' after that point in comments which sparked an immediate backlash from Tory MPs and the hospitality industry.  

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Meanwhile, Government data up to May 1 shows that 49,834,997 jabs have been given in the UK so far - 34,505,380 of which are first doses.  

A further 143,175 people received their first dose, while 372,304 more Britons had their second.  

Pub bosses described Dominic Raab's comments as a 'red flag' and warned firms need 'certainty' now on the terms on which they will be allowed to reopen heading into the summer. 

Conservative MPs said retaining the wearing of face masks and social distancing in some settings like public transport could be acceptable. 

But they argued all restrictions must be lifted on June 21 when it comes to pubs, bars and restaurants as they accused ministers of being 'hyper cautious'.  

Mr Raab this morning rejected calls to speed up the roadmap as he insisted 'we are very close now to really turning the corner' in the battle against coronavirus. 

The success of the UK's vaccination programme and falling infection numbers have prompted demands for the Government to bring forward its reopening dates. 

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But the Foreign Secretary urged people to be patient as he insisted June 21 is not far away and 'we are nearly there'.  

It comes after Office for National Statistics data suggested the total number of infections is lower than at any point since early September and infections have been falling constantly for five weeks.  

Experts said the data 'should be celebrated' and were the first proof that, despite the reopening of outdoor hospitality and allowing the rule of six earlier this month, there was still 'no evidence of an increased transmission risk'.  

Evidence that Covid has been stamped out in Britain is now overwhelming as the vaccine rollout speeds ahead and official figures show 22million people - one in three - live in areas where not a single person has died with the virus this month. 

And Britons will be allowed to hug their friends and family in just over a fortnight as ministers look set to follow through with the next stage of Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown.

The country's hugely-successful vaccine drive - coupled with social distancing rules - has meant just one in 1,000 people in England now have Covid, and the R rate is still below 1. 

The drop in figures means the government will likely approve the next stage of England's lockdown easing on May 17.

From that date, limits on outdoor meetings are set to be lifted while the rule of six - or two households rule - will apply indoors. 

And international travel looks set to resume as well, but with mandatory Covid tests and quarantine likely remaining in place for most holiday destinations, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Ministers could also relax social distancing between friends and family on May 17 - meaning loved ones kept apart for months may finally be allowed to hug.  

Government guidance states the advice 'on social distancing between friends and family' will be updated on May 17. 

And a source told The Times: 'The data is looking very good. The scientists say we're on track for the next stage unless something changes dramatically.' 

But as the country looks set to open up, several cases of the South African and Brazilian variants were detected across parts of east London.

Surge testing will be deployed in targeted areas within the E1 postcode from Sunday. 

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that NHS test and Trace was working with Tower Hamlets Council to provide additional testing and genomic sequencing.

Britons will be allowed to hug their friends and family in just over a fortnight as ministers look set to follow through with the next stage of Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown. Pictured: Revellers out in Soho, London, on Friday night

Britons will be allowed to hug their friends and family in just over a fortnight as ministers look set to follow through with the next stage of Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown. Pictured: Revellers out in Soho, London, on Friday night

During Friday's antics, one woman was wrestled to the floor in Leeds by bouncers and police amid the revelry as Britain continues to enjoy the released lockdown rules

During Friday's antics, one woman was wrestled to the floor in Leeds by bouncers and police amid the revelry as Britain continues to enjoy the released lockdown rules

It follows the identification of 'several' confirmed cases of the variant B.1.351, first seen in South Africa, and the P1 variant, first identified in Brazil.

The department said all the confirmed cases were self-isolating and there were no links between the new cases and the cluster of cases recently identified in the south London area.

Professor Sir Mark Walport (pictured) - a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) - told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday that the country was on cusp of being able to loosen more restrictions

Professor Sir Mark Walport (pictured) - a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) - told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday that the country was on cusp of being able to loosen more restrictions

Everyone aged 11 and over who lives, works or is educated in these postcodes is being encouraged to take a test when invited, whether they are showing symptoms or not, the DHSC said.

And yesterday,  a former chief scientific adviser to the Government warned that a potential for coronavirus cases to 'reignite' remains as many adults are still unvaccinated.

Professor Sir Mark Walport - a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) - told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday that the country was on cusp of being able to loosen more restrictions.

But he warned that, with around 35 per cent of adults not yet vaccinated, there was the potential for the 'spark to reignite' and cases to rise again.

Prof Walport added: 'We are on the cusp of being able to move to the next step of relaxation, it's absolutely right that vaccines have been spectacularly successful but not everybody is protected.

'We've got 35 per

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