The UK has reported another 454 coronavirus deaths and 12,057 further cases, while more than 16.4 million have now received their first vaccine dose.

Today’s figures are down on Wednesday when 738 further deaths and 12,718 new cases were recorded.

And they represent the lowest daily figure since 424 were announced on 11 December, excluding days when numbers have been artificially low due to delays in reporting caused by weekends and Christmas holidays.

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They are also lower than they were a week ago – with 678 COVID-related deaths and 13,494 new infections reported last Thursday.

The exact number of people who have had their first jab is now 16,423,082, while 573,724 have had a second dose.

Since the pandemic began last year, the number of people who have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test is 119,387. The total number of lab-confirmed infections stands at 4,083,242.

Today’s drop in daily figures comes as a study by Imperial College London suggested the infection rate is plummeting in England.

Imperial College London’s REACT study found that infections had fallen by more than two-thirds since the last time it reported in mid-January.

Last time REACT found that 1 in 63 people currently had the virus. This time, it estimates that 1 in 196 people are infected – putting infections on a similar level as last September.

The researchers estimate that the national R number for England is between 0.69 and 0.76, meaning the outbreak is decreasing across the country.

Meanwhile, a separate survey – Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report – also shows that both infections and hospital admissions are continuing to fall.

Between 8 and 14 February it reveals that case rates dropped in all age groups and across all regions, with the highest rate of infection among 30 to 39-year-olds, at 192.5 per 100,000.

Case rates are now lowest in the South West – at 87.4 per 100,000 – and highest in the East Midlands – at 176.7 per 100,000, the survey shows.

The highest numbers of hospital admissions are in the West Midlands, at a rate of 20.58, it adds.

Elsewhere, Sky News understands there are plans for a rapid reopening of the economy in the weeks after pupils return to classrooms on 8 March.

A Whitehall blueprint suggests the majority of older students in higher education will be back to face-to-face teaching by mid-April, along with non-essential shops. Hospitality venues could open later that month.

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