The U.K., which on Wednesday became the first Western country to authorize a Covid-19 vaccine, also ended a lockdown in England as reported coronavirus infections continued to fall.
England, home to 84% of the U.K. population, goes from a national lockdown into a system of regional restrictions depending on the local severity of the pandemic. Shops reopened across the country, and in some areas, sporting events opened to limited numbers of spectators.
The new system went into effect after a vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday, in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a significant rebellion among members of his Conservative Party who opposed the new restrictions. Some 54 Conservative lawmakers voted against the measures and a further 16 abstained, out of the party’s total of 364, but the measures passed because the main opposition Labour Party abstained.
Across the U.K., an average 15,082 new daily infections were recorded in the week to Tuesday, down 17.6% from a week earlier. Hospitalizations also fell over the same period by 11.6% to an average 1,487 daily. However, the rate of deaths from Covid-19 continued to rise to an average of 460 people a day, up 4% on a week earlier, reflecting rising infection rates until about a month ago.
The Covid-19 epidemic continues to ebb in France too, after reaching a peak in November. The seven-day rolling average of new daily infections in France has fallen by more than a third over in the last week, to under 11,000, while the number of new admissions to hospitals and intensive care units has fallen by more than a quarter. Daily deaths, a lagging indicator, have also started to fall in the last two weeks in both hospitals and nursing homes, to a total of about 470 a day over the last week, 18% lower than the week before.
Meanwhile, Germany prolonged its mild lockdown after it failed to bring the spread of the virus under control. While neighboring countries have seen new cases fall rapidly, daily infections in Germany have trended sideways. The country recorded 17,270 new confirmed infections on Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, 1,363 fewer than a week ago. Covid-19-related deaths hit a daily record of 487. New cases per capita in Germany, which have been well below Europe’s average for most of the autumn, now exceed those in France and Spain and are on a par with the U.K.’s numbers.
Hospitalizations in the U.K. fell by 11.6% to an average 1,487 daily. An earlier version incorrectly said 14,879.