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A patient wears a sticker after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the Royal Health & Wellbeing Centre in Oldham, U.K., on Jan. 21, 2021.
A patient wears a sticker after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the Royal Health & Wellbeing Centre in Oldham, U.K., on Jan. 21, 2021. (Anthony Devlin/Bloomberg)

Britain 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 a day earlier, 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.

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

"The prime minister doesn't think we are out of the woods yet," Johnson's spokesman, Jamie Davies, told reporters on Monday. He said any impact from the most recent lifting of pandemic rules is not yet showing in the case data, though he acknowledged any reduction in cases is encouraging.

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. He 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 numbers are 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.

More than 70% of the U.K. adult population has received two vaccine doses, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Twitter.

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