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UK reports fifth daily decline of virus cases in Johnson boost

Pedestrians relaxed in the sunshine in a park on the south bank of the River Thames in view of Tower Bridge in London.
Pedestrians relaxed in the sunshine in a park on the south bank of the River Thames in view of Tower Bridge in London.Jason Alden/Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomb

The U.K. reported a drop in new coronavirus cases for a fifth consecutive day, a potential boost for Prime Minister Boris Johnson after a chaotic week since the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

A total of 29,173 new infections were recorded on Sunday, down from 31,795 on Saturday, according to data from Public Health England. New cases were in excess of 50,000 on July 17, but have since been on a downward trend, the data shows.

Yet data in the coming days and weeks will be crucial: Venues such as nightclubs were allowed to re-open on July 19, and any potential impact of this re-opening could yet push up infections. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has previously warned that new cases could peak at 100,000 per day.

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Johnson’s government has sought to encourage a return to normal life over the summer, dropping social-distancing rules and doing away with mandatory mask-wearing. Britain’s premier has argued that now is the best time to ease restrictions, with a majority of the population having received two vaccine doses and schoolchildren on their holidays. Johnson has said he’d rather infections rose now than in the fall and winter, when more people are indoors and the National Health Service is under greater strain.

The declining virus data is also respite for Johnson after a politically tricky few weeks. He spent the second anniversary of his premiership on Saturday in self-isolation after coming into contact with Javid, who later tested positive for the virus. He’s also come under fire for his handling of the so-called “pingdemic”, with critical parts of the economy under stress due to many workers isolating.

At the same time, a YouGov poll published Saturday indicated that Johnson’s Conservatives’ lead over the opposition Labour Party dropped from 13 points to 4, the narrowest gap between the two parties in YouGov polling since February.

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