The Omicron wave appears to be subsiding in the UK, though other parts of the world continue to record increasing cases.
It comes as the government mulls the reeling back of restrictions, which would see the end of so-called Plan B measures.
However, former SAGE adviser and director of healthcare charity Wellcome Trust, Sir Jeremy Farrar has advised that restrictions remain in place until the end of winter – despite the country’s “very strong position”.
“The UK in particular and some other countries are in a very, very strong position now. They have fantastic rollout of vaccines and there’s a high degree of natural immunity.”
“I wouldn’t lift everything at the end of January,” Farrar told Sky News, “when the NHS is still under pressure, and we’re still in the middle, of course, of winter.”
Facemasks are likely to remain a legal requirement on public transport and indoors but work from home guidance and vaccine passports are expected to be scrapped.
Downing Street said earlier this week there were “encouraging signs that infections are falling across the country”.
Although the NHS is still under pressure, there have been “some signs of falls, or at least plateauing, in admissions and occupancy in hospital, which is good to see”.
At the peak of the Omicron wave at the start of the year, the UK was recording over 200,000 new infections a day. More than 94,400 new cases were recorded on Tuesday.
Other parts of the world
While the pandemic improves in the UK, Farrar added that the rest of the world remains in a “pretty dire situation”, due to low vaccination rates and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
It echoes World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom, who told reporters from the agency’s headquarters yesterday that “This pandemic is nowhere near over”.
Tedros added that the Omicron variant had resulted in 18m new infections across the world over the past week.
Yesterday, Germany recorded 112,323 coronavirus cases and 239 deaths, officials said, with Omicron found in more than 70 per cent of the infections.
France also documented 464,769 cases on Tuesday, which arose over the previous 24 hours. While Italy recorded 228,179 new infections yesterday, up from 83,403 the day before.
Beyond Europe, Japan has seen its cases climb by more than 32,000 new, according to national broadcaster NHK.
Tokyo’s daily infections hit a new record on Wednesday with 7,377 new infections, as did western prefecture Osaka with 6,101.
The jump in cases in Tokyo surpassed that of the city’s August peak which followed the Summer Olympics.