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‘Time to learn to live with Covid’: Downing Street warns UK will have to accept flu-like death toll

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Boris Johnson took an increasingly hardline approach to ending lockdown on July 19 today, telling the Cabinet the country will have to ‘live with Covid in the future’.

Amid clear signals that ministers are increasingly set on ending draconian restrictions in three weeks come hell or high water, the Prime Minister highlighted that the link between infections and serious illness and deaths has been significantly weakened.

Downing Street said the Cabinet – including new Health Secretary Sajid Javid – ‘agreed that once we have completed the road map, we will be able to live with Covid in the future, even if cases continue to rise, thanks to the protections provided by the vaccine.’

It came as  new figures showed that weekly Covid deaths have risen slightly in England but the virus is still only responsible for fewer than 100 fatalities every seven days . 

An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report published today found that 74 people died directly from Covid in the week ending June 18, which was up 12 per cent on the week before. Wales recorded no deaths from the virus in the most recent week, for the first time since the pandemic began.

A separate study from scientists at Cambridge University found that fewer than one in a thousand people who catch Covid in England now die from the disease.

They estimate the overall infection fatality rate (IFR) of coronavirus has been driven down to 0.085 per cent thanks to the country’s hugely successful vaccine rollout. 

The official data will give ministers confidence Freedom Day can go ahead next month as planned.

Amid clear signals that ministers are increasingly set on ending draconian restrictions in three weeks come hell or high water, the Prime Minister highlighted that the link between infections and serious illness and deaths has been significantly weakened.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman today told reporters that ‘as with other diseases such as the flu we will have to live with the virus’.  

When he was asked whether this meant that the Government would be comfortable with an annual death toll similar to flu, he said: ‘That is just factual, the number. That is not a target or number that the Government sets.’

The Government will continue to publish daily coronavirus figures once restrictions have been lifted, according to Downing Street.

Asked if this is expected to continue, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told Westminster reporters: ‘Yes. We will continue, and are continuing, to provide these updates through the dashboard that provide an important level of transparency to the public and ensure understanding how we are progressing.’

Asked how long this could go on for, the spokesman added: ‘We will keep it under review as we go forward but clearly now it is entirely right that we continue to provide this level of data and transparency to the public as the world continues to fight this pandemic.’

Earlier  Home Secretary Priti Patel said we will have to ‘adapt our lives accordingly’ in order to get freedoms back while at the same time living with coronavirus.

‘Look, I would love to take the mask off – but at the right time, I will do that,’ she told Times Radio Breakfast.

‘We are living with coronavirus and many of us have been saying this across Government, probably for the last 12 months actually, we are living with this virus, we’re in a pandemic.

‘Yes, we have the vaccine, there’ll be boosters at some stage, booster jabs as well, so we are adapting our way of life.

‘I think to look to getting our freedoms back, which of course we all dearly want, we are adapting how we live and that means living with the concept of this pandemic, the virus, and obviously we adapt our lives accordingly.’

In England, 102 people who died in the latest week had Covid mentioned on their death certificate, up from 84 a week earlier. But only 74 of them were caused directly by the virus, with the others dying from other causes, the ONS said.

Earlier Home Secretary Priti Patel said we will have to 'adapt our lives accordingly' in order to get freedoms back while at the same time living with coronavirus.

Earlier Home Secretary Priti Patel said we will have to ‘adapt our lives accordingly’ in order to get freedoms back while at the same time living with coronavirus.

In total, there were 9,459 deaths registered in England and Wales in the most recent week, meaning just 0.78 per cent were caused by Covid – the equivalent of one in 127.

The fact weekly deaths have risen just 12 per cent in the past week despite cases quadrupling over the past two months highlight just how well the vaccines are severing the link between Covid infections and fatalities.

Putting his trust in Britain’s jab rollout, Boris Johnson told a meeting of the Cabinet today that ‘people will be able to live with Covid in the future, even if cases continue to rise, thanks to the vaccines’.

The Department of Health posted another 22,868 infections yesterday which was more than double the number a week prior. But there were just three deaths registered.

In a clear sign of the ‘vaccine effect’, the last time cases were at around 22,000 and rising was in early December, when there were roughly 400 Covid deaths a day and the second wave was starting to spiral.

Today’s ONS data also shows that, across England and Wales, flu and pneumonia are killing three-and-a-half times as many people as Covid.

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