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UK daily COVID cases exceed 40,000 – highest since mid-January

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The UK has reported 42,302 new coronavirus cases and 49 more deaths in the latest 24-hour period, government data shows.

It is the highest number of daily infections since 15 January when 55,761 cases were recorded.

And it is the eighth day in a row where total cases have exceeded 30,000.

The figures compare with 36,660 COVID-19 infections and 50 deaths recorded yesterday, and 32,548 cases and 33 fatalities announced this time last week.

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It comes as Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that two-thirds of adults in the UK have now received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

A total of 35,155,767 people are now fully vaccinated.

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And 46,037,090 have had their first dose of a COVID vaccine.

The vaccine figures will be celebrated by politicians ahead of the scrapping of coronavirus restrictions next Monday – including limits on social distancing and a legal mandate to wear facemasks.

The government delayed lifting most rules until 19 July so two-thirds of adults could be double-jabbed, and every adult could be offered a first vaccine.

Nevertheless, experts have accused the government of rushing the plan amid spiralling coronavirus cases, fuelled by the Delta variant.

Some 1,200 scientists – including four SAGE members – have urged the government to push the brakes on the plans for the 19 July lifting, warning the decision to unlock the country is “unethical”.

Writing in The Lancet, they accused the government of pursuing an “unscientific” policy of “herd immunity by mass infection”

Scotland is also due to relax some of its restrictions on Monday, but it will still be mandatory to wear face masks.

Earlier, Wales announced it would be easing some of its COVID rules from Saturday but face masks will still have to be worn on public transport and in most indoor public places.