COVID cases in the UK have plunged, despite earlier fears that the new school term could have fuelled a surge in infections.
And experts believe the R-rate may be at its lowest level since March – raising hopes Brits are moving past the pandemic.
One in 90 people in England had the virus last week, with around 620,100 infected in total, experts at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said yesterday.
And while the figure is still high, it's down 18 per cent from a fortnight earlier, when one in 70 tested positive and total infections stood at around 754,000.
Meanwhile, Government scientists say the R-rate is now between 0.8 and 1 in England – the first time it's been below 1 since March.
It means the epidemic may be shrinking as we head into the colder months.
ONS study leader Kara Steel said: "Infection levels have decreased in England for the first time in several weeks, though rates remain generally high across the UK.
"It’s encouraging that infection rates have continued to decrease among young adults, possibly reflecting the impact of the vaccination programme."
Currently, infections are highest in secondary school children.
A whopping one in 35 pupils is currently testing positive, although infections are remaining flat or even decreasing in other age groups.
However, jabs are now being rolled out in schools with the aim that kids will never be forced out of class again.
Elsewhere, hospital admissions have dropped by 16 per cent over the past week.
There are currently just over 7,000 Covid patients in hospital – the lowest level since August.
An average of 572 people are being admitted to wards in England a day, roughly half the number predicted in Sage's best-case scenario.
Despite all the good news, however, Boris Johnson warned tough restrictions may yet return this winter.
Under the PM's "plan B", compulsory masks, vaccine passports and working from home could be introduced.
During an address to the nation, Prof Chris Whitty warned: "Winter is coming, and people should still take this seriously."
Mr Johnson said he has a "number of shots in the locker" to prevent a spike that could threaten the NHS – but "wouldn't necessarily play them all at once."
'WINTER IS COMING'
And experts have warned a back-to-school wave is still possible.
In Scotland, cases have spiralled to record highs after kids returned to class.
Oxford University Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, told the Daily Mail: "The very high prevalence in Scotland is a concern – it is roughly double that of England.
"I very much hope England does not reach the level seen in Scotland."
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