The UK has reported another 24,248 coronavirus cases and 15 deaths, according to daily government figures.

It compares with 24,855 cases and 18 deaths on Saturday, and 14,876 and 11 this time last week.

Another 137,389 people also had a first dose of a vaccine and 196,209 had their second jab. It means 45,274,497 have had at least one dose, while 33,614,952 are fully vaccinated.

Total UK coronavirus-linked deaths – within 28 days of a positive test – stand at 128,222.

Cases have risen steeply over the last month, driven by the more transmissible Delta variant.

The seven-day average on 1 June was 4,147, but by 1 July it was about six times higher at 24,809.

Crucially, deaths have remained flat for the last few months and are much lower than the January peak when more than 1,200 a day were dying.

More on Covid-19

This suggests vaccines have largely broken the chain between infections and hospitalisation and deaths – a key measure in the government’s aim to scrap most remaining rules in a few weeks.

The latest seven-day average for daily deaths is 17.4, while 1,905 people were in hospital with COVID-19 on 1 July.

This is more than double the 927 being treated on 1 June – but is a fraction of mid-January when nearly 40,000 were in hospital and there were fears the NHS could be overwhelmed.

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Masks ‘will be a matter of personal choice’

It comes as a minister told Sky News on Sunday that face masks are set to be a matter of personal choice when restrictions hopefully end on 19 July.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the success of the vaccination programme meant the government was “able to think about how we can return to normality as much as possible”.

He said the data currently “looks very positive” ahead of a final decision from the prime minister on whether step four of England’s roadmap will take place.

Asked about face masks, Mr Jenrick said: “We are going to now move into a period where there won’t be legal restrictions – the state won’t be telling you what to do – but you will want to exercise a degree of personal responsibility and judgement.

“So different people will come to different conclusions on things like masks, for example.”

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