The UK has reported the lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths in nearly five months.
A further 82 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, recorded on Sunday, brought the total to 124,501 since the start of the pandemic.
It is the first time the figure has been below 100 since 19 October and continues the sharp decline seen since the peak of 1,820 was reached on 20 January.
Both deaths and confirmed cases have reduced by around a third since last week, while hospital admissions are also down by nearly 30 per cent.
Meanwhile an average of 300,000 vaccines are being administered every day, with a total of 22.2 million people having received their first dose by Saturday.
It came as England prepared for the first step in Boris Johnson’s “roadmap to freedom” on Monday, 8 March.
Pupils will receive face-to-face teaching in classrooms for the first time in two months as part of the first stage of lockdown easing.
The prime minister said he is “very hopeful” the return of pupils to school tomorrow will go to plan – despite concerns raised by parents and teaching unions.
Some scientists have raised concerns the increased levels of interaction could push the reproduction number – the R value – above 1, causing coronavirus to spread faster.
However the prime minister echoed the warnings of education experts that more damage was being done to pupils by keeping them at home.
Speaking to broadcasters on Sunday, Mr Johnson said: “You ask about the risk (of schools returning) – I think the risk is actually in not going back to school tomorrow given all the suffering, all the loss of learning we have seen.”
Restrictions are also being eased to allow people to meet one other person outside their household for recreation and exercise.