he UK has recorded another 54,940 coronavirus cases and 563 deaths overnight.
Today’s death toll marks a rise of more than 100 on last Sunday’s figure of 455, while the number of infections is just 40 over the 54,990 recorded on January 3.
It is also the third highest number of fatalities to be recorded on a Sunday. Figures are generally lower on the last day of the weekend owing to reporting lags.
The latest figures take the total number of Covid-19 deaths recorded across the country since the start of the pandemic to 81,4231, according to the Government’s dashboard.
However, separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been more than 97,000 fatalities involving the virus in the country.
Chris Whitty launches Covid lockdown adverts warn ‘people will die’ if rules are broken
The sobering update comes as England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned that the NHS is facing the “most dangerous situation” in living memory.
He stressed that the only way to prevent avoidable deaths is for the public to stay at home wherever possible.
Some experts have branded the country’s current lockdown measures not strict enough, in the face of the more transmissible variant which has spread rapidly in many parts of the country – a position the Labour Party leader suggested he endorsed.
Susan Michie, a professor of health psychology at University College London who participates in Independent Sage, said avoiding further deaths would mean “absolutely having to get right back to where we were in March, unfortunately”.
Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said the Kent variant has made the situation “more risky” and that if the infection rate does not slow down then “we’re going to have to be even stricter”.
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Marr that he did not want to “speculate” on whether the Government would strengthen the measures.
“The most important thing is that people stay at home and follow the rules that we have got,” he added.
“People need to not just follow the letter of the rules but follow the spirit as well and play their part.”