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February 24, 2021

One of the UK's leading infectious diseases experts has warned a "dramatic slowing down" in the decline of new COVID cases and a "concerning" drop in vaccination rates threaten to derail Boris Johnson's plans to ease the country out of COVID lockdown. On Tuesday, government data showed that a further 548 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19. More worrying, according to infectious disease expert Professor Paul Hunter, was the seven-day rolling average of new cases, which now stands at 10,882 cases per day compared to 12,331 the previous week. This represents a 12% decline compared to a 28% decline the week before. Prof Hunter warned this could signify that the R rate – which measures how quickly the virus is spreading – could be close to one in some parts of the UK. An R rate above one would mean cases are growing exponentially again. Stuart Henderson One of the UK's leading infectious diseases experts has warned a "dramatic slowing down" in the decline of new COVID cases and a "concerning" drop in vaccination rates threaten to derail Boris Johnson's plans to ease the country out of COVID lockdown. On Tuesday, government data showed that a further 548 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19. More worrying, according to infectious disease expert Professor Paul Hunter, was the seven-day rolling average of new cases, which now stands at 10,882 cases per day compared to 12,331 the previous week. This represents a 12% decline compared to a 28% decline the week before. Prof Hunter warned this could signify that the R rate – which measures how quickly the virus is spreading – could be close to one in some parts of the UK. An R rate above one would mean cases are growing exponentially again. In addition, Prof Hunter warned a recent decline in the rate at which the first dose of vaccinations are being delivered was also of concern, saying the UK could "struggle" to dish out enough first doses before needing to switch supply and give people the second dose they are waiting for. In the past seven days, the UK has given 2.4 million doses of the vaccine compared to a weekly average of around 3 million doses for the rest of February – that's a drop of more than 500,000 doses in just seven days. Prof Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the two issues were "very concerning", warning that the impact of the planned easing of lockdown measures in the coming weeks – notably the reopening all schools – may spark an increase in case numbers sooner than was expected.