Coronavirus cases have continued to drop across much of England – and the virus was no longer the leading cause of death in March, new data has shown.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that Covid was the third leading cause of death in England that month, dropping from the top spot for the first time since October.
Case rates have fallen in nearly all regions of England except the South West, where they remain broadly unchanged in the seven days to April 18, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England (PHE).
Meanwhile, the latest Test and Trace figures showed that 18,050 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to April 14, down 9% on the previous week and is the lowest number since the week to September 2 2020.
“It is essential we all continue following the guidance to ensure this continues. We are moving in the right direction, let’s keep going.
“The simple ways you can help to keep the virus under control remain the same, practise ‘hands, face, space, fresh air’, get free rapid tests delivered to your home, do not mix with others if unwell and get the vaccine as soon as you are offered.”
NHS England figures also show that an estimated 89.7% of people aged 45 and over in England have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine by April 18,
The Government said a further 18 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Thursday, bringing the UK total to 127,345.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have been 151,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Provisional ONS figures, published on Thursday, show there were 45,567 deaths registered in England in March of which 4,198 were due to coronavirus, a month-on-month fall of 75% from 16,682 in February.
The leading cause of death in March was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in England, accounting for 10.1% of deaths registered that month, followed by ischaemic heart disease.
Prof Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of applied statistics at The Open University, said: “It’s very good news to see that Covid-19 has been pushed off its depressing position as the leading cause of death in England in March – and I expect it to have gone even further down this list when the April analysis comes out.”
The PHE report showed that in south-west England the rate rose very slightly from 13.8 per 100,000 people in the seven days to April 11 to 13.9 in the week to April 18, but was a still the lowest in the country.
In Yorkshire & the Humber, the rate of new cases stood at 45.0 per 100,000 people – the highest rate of any region, but down from 61.2 the previous week.
Among 30 to 39-year-olds the rate has dropped from 44.3 to 34.2, and for 20 to 29-year-olds it is down from 39.0 to 32.1.
A total of 37,238,073 Covid-19 vaccinations have taken place in England between December 8 and April 21, according to NHS England data, including first and second doses.
The data also shows that an estimated 83.3% of people in England aged 80 and over had received both jabs as of April 18, meaning they are fully vaccinated against coronavirus.
Some 78.3% of people aged 75 to 79 are estimated to have had both doses, along with 42.7% of people aged 70 to 74, 17.3% of people aged 65 to 69, and 14.0% of people aged 60 to 64.