The number of weekly coronavirus deaths in England and Wales has hit its highest total since May, but there are hopes the second wave is starting to level off.
A total of 2,697 deaths registered in the week ending November 20 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
It is up from 2,466 deaths in the week to November 13 – a jump of 9% – and it is the highest number of deaths involving the virus since the week ending May 15.
The rise of 9% is down from week-on-week increases of 27%, 40%, 41% and 45% in the previous reporting periods, and other recent studies have suggested infections could be levelling off.
Still, fatalities went up for the 11th straight week – with most of the victims aged 75 years and over – and it was only the second time in six months the weekly toll was above 2,000.
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Just over a fifth (21.5%) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to November 20 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.
In the week up to November 20, the number of deaths from all causes in England and Wales was 20.8% above the five-year average (2,155 deaths higher).
Deaths not involving Covid-19 remained below the five-year average.
In England, the North West continued to have the highest number of Covid-19 deaths, with 629 in the week to November 20 – the highest number for the region since the week ending May 1, according to the ONS.
The highest proportion of coronavirus deaths was seen in Yorkshire and the Humber – 481 were registered in the week to November 20: again, the highest for the region since the week to May 1.
Some 306 Covid-19 deaths were registered in the West Midlands, while 289 were registered in the East Midlands: in both cases, the highest since the week to May 15.
Deaths increased week-on-week in every region of England except Eastern England.
Three-quarters of those who died of coronavirus were aged 75 and older, the ONS said.
The biggest increase was seen in those 90 and over (79 more deaths).
Compared with the previous week, deaths increased in hospitals (+146), care homes (+42) and private homes (+27).
The number of deaths in hospitals, care homes and private homes was above the five-year average, but deaths in other locations were below the five-year averag, the ONS said.
Year-to-date, 65.9% of fatalities (42,110) have occurred in hospital, with the remainder occurring in care homes (17,319), private homes (3,072), hospices (870), other communal establishments (251) and elsewhere (230).
An ONS study of private households last week suggested infections in England are showing signs of levelling off.
A separate study on Monday suggested coronavirus infections have dropped by 30% in England during the second national lockdown.
Imperial College London said its React study found that infections in the North East and North West have fallen by more than half.
Cases were also down in Yorkshire and the Humber, but prevalence remained high in the East Midlands and West Midlands, the university added.
The study suggested 1 in 100 people in England had Covid-19 between November 13 and 24, down significantly from an estimated 1 in 80 reported on November 2.
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Asked if there would be a vaccine passport, Mr Gove told Sky News: “No, that’s not being planned.
“I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports and I don’t know anyone else in Government…”
He added: “I think the most important thing to do is make sure that we vaccinate as many people as possible.”
His comments came a day after Health Minister Nadhim Zahawi, who is in charge of the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, suggested that a so-called “immunity passport” was being looked at to identify people who had the jab.
Mr Zahawi said that hospitality and entertainment venues might insist on seeing such a “passport” from customers.
The Health Minister said that the Government was “looking at the technology” so people could show that they had a Covid-19 vaccine.
He said: “I think you’ll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system – as they have done with the (test and trace) app.”
Mr Gove also said he is confident another lockdown could be avoided, but that the Government could not rule one out.