COVID deaths have dropped by over a quarter in a week with 621 more fatalities - as Boris Johnson revealed he is "optimistic" about lockdown lifting.
A further 13,308 Brits have also tested positive for the disease - bringing the total number of infections to 4,027,106.Covid cases have risenCredit: Getty Images - Getty
The total number of fatalities now stands at 116,908.
Deaths have continued to drop in a tentative sign the lockdown is working and Britain is getting over the darkest days of the pandemic.
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Today's daily death and case figures are 27 per cent down on last week when 828 fatalities were recorded with 18,262 new infections.
In a major milestone, the UK today came close to hitting its 15million Covid jab target - two days ahead of deadline - with 14.5million receiving a first dose.
And 534,869 people have now been given a second dose of the life-saving vaccine.
The impressive feat - coupled with falling case and death rates - has raised hope of lockdown lifting sooner than anticipated.
Boris Johnson said today he was "cautiously optimistic" as he prepares to reveal his roadmap out of the shutdown.
Speaking during a visit to the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies plant in Billingham, Teesside, where the new Novavax vaccine will be manufactured, he said: "I'm optimistic, I won't hide it from you.
"I'm optimistic, but we have to be cautious."
The PM said lifting restrictions would likely start with schools re-opening for all pupils and end with the hospitality sector - such as pubs and restaurants.
He added: "Our children's education is our number one priority, but then working forward, getting non-essential retail open as well and then, in due course, as and when we can prudently, cautiously, of course we want to be opening hospitality as well.
"I will be trying to set out as much as I possibly can in as much detail as I can, always understanding that we have to be wary of the pattern of disease.
"We don't want to be forced into any kind of retreat or reverse ferret."
In England today, 436 more deaths were recorded in hospitals - bringing the total number to 78,588.
The latest victims were aged between 21 and 100 with all but ten having known underlying health conditions.
Scotland has suffered a further 45 deaths with their total number of fatalities now at 6,711.
In Wales, 22 more deaths were recorded - bringing the total to 5,106.
While in Northern Ireland, ten more fatalities have brought the total to 1,985.
There will then be "another short wait" until hospitality businesses and pubs open.
But The Sun revealed on Friday that pubs and restaurants may be able to serve outdoors in April if Covid cases continue to fall.
A government source said: "We will hopefully be sipping pints in the spring sunshine sooner rather than later."
Boris Johnson says 'he's optimistic' about lifting lockdown and shops and pubs will be prioritised after schools