The UK’s coronavirus hospital death toll has increased by 573 – the highest number on a Sunday for seven months.
England reported 508 fatalities, Scotland had three, Wales recorded 45 and Northern Ireland had 17 to bring Britain’s hospital toll to 573.
This number is a huge leap compared to previous Sundays when 448 were recorded on January 3 and 301 on December 27.
Today’s death toll is the highest Sunday increase since May 3, when 358 deaths were recorded.
The grim figure means the total number of hospital deaths now stands at 65,972.
The number of people in the UK who have died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus, in all settings, has now exceeded 80,000 after a further 1,035 deaths were recorded on Saturday.
The sombre figure is 80,868 but this is expected to increase when Sunday’s figures are released later today.
Government scientific advisory group SAGE revealed that the UK’s R rate has risen to between 1.0 and 1.4, following household mixing at Christmas.
From Monday anyone unable to work from home will now be offered a Covid test before setting off on jobs.
The plan is to identify the one in three carriers who have the disease without knowing it and take them out of circulation.
Community testing will be rolled out to all of the nation’s 317 local authorities to regularly check people without symptoms.
The news comes as Matt Hancock promised every adult in the UK will be offered a Covid-19 vaccine by the autumn.
The Health Secretary said more than 200,000 vaccines a day are being administered in the UK, and the country is on course to deliver 2 million vaccines a week.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday: “The good news is that over the last week we’ve vaccinated more people than in the whole of December.”
But he accepted that to be effective, vaccines would have to be given to people in their 40s and 50s as well as the highest priority patients.
Asked if the UK would be able to vaccinate everybody by the autumn, Mr Hancock said: “Yes.”
He added: “Every adult will be offered a vaccine by the autumn, absolutely. I totally agree it’s very, very important.
“Of course you’ve got to do it according to need, because someone in a care home is many, many times more likely to die if they catch coronavirus than someone like me in my 40s. But absolutely we’re going to offer the vaccine to everybody.
“We’ve got over 350 million doses on order, they’re not all here yet and we’re rolling them out as fast as they get delivered.
“But we’re going to have enough to offer everyone over the age of 18 one by the autumn.”
And Mr Hancock said the Government was on course to reach its target of 13 million people vaccinated by mid-February.
England’s chief medical officer has warned the NHS faces the “most dangerous situation” in living memory as the pandemic causes record deaths and hospital admissions.
Chris Whitty has said the only way to prevent avoidable deaths is for the public to stay home wherever possible.
He is also fronting a new government campaign which carries a stark warning to the public that if they leave their homes “people will die.”
The new TV ad urges people to stay at home and “act like you’ve got it.”