Figures show that the number of new coronavirus cases reported each day in the UK has fallen for seven days in a row – going from above 50,000 on 17 July to below 24,000 on 27 July.
Now Professor Neil Ferguson – whose modelling led to the first lockdown in March 2020 – has offered a cautious but hopeful outlook for autumn.
Prof Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), previously predicted that England's 19 July "freedom day" loosening of coronavirus restrictions would result in 200,000 cases a day – but now says that it will be “several more weeks” before the effect of the unlocking is known.
He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “We’re not completely out of the woods, but the equation has fundamentally changed. The effect of vaccines is hugely reducing the risk of hospitalisations and death.
Watch: PM warns against 'premature conclusions' as COVID cases fall
“And I’m positive that by late September or October time we will be looking back at most of the pandemic.
“We will have COVID with us, we will still have people dying from COVID, but we’ll have put the bulk of the pandemic behind us.”
However, Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, warned that the pandemic "is not over yet" despite the drop in cases.
The prime minister told reporters that the easing of restrictions on 19 July had not yet shown up in the figures.
He said: “It is very, very important that we don’t allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions about this.
“Step four of the opening-up only took place a few days ago, people have got to remain very cautious and that remains the approach of the government.”
While cases have been dropping, a total of 218 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 16 July mentioned COVID on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics – up 19% on the previous week and the highest total since 260 deaths in the week to 23 April.
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