The UK has recorded its highest ever daily Covid death rate, as ministers today warned the “worst is yet to come”.
Latest figures from Public Health England showed a further 1,564 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours.
The number exceeds the previous record of 1,325 deaths last Friday, and takes the total number of deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test above the 84,000 mark.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned he was “concerned” about a new coronavirus variant discovered in Brazil.
Speaking to MPs on the Commons liaison committee, Johnson said: “I think it’s fair to say that there are lots of questions we still have.
“We already have tough measures to protect this country from new infections coming in from abroad… We are taking steps to do that in respect of the Brazil variant.”
The country is currently grappling with two separate coronavirus mutations — one which has now become the dominant variant in the UK, and another “highly transmissible” strain thought to have originated in South Africa.
The Prime Minister refused to rule out stricter lockdown measures, as health officials warned Covid fatalities would peak over the next few weeks.
Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, over the weekend said the coming few weeks will mark “the worst” of the pandemic for the NHS, as coronavirus cases across the country continue to soar.
However, today’s figures showed a slight dip in the rate of infection. The UK reported a further 47,525 cases in the past 24 hours, down from a daily average of almost 54,000 last week.
Johnson said this afternoon that the figures suggested current “lockdown restrictions are starting to show signs of some effect”.
He noted that more than 2.4m people in the UK have now been vaccinated, with ministers working as fast as they could to vaccinate the 14m most vulnerable by mid-February.
The mayor of London today issued an urgent plea to the PM to increase the number of vaccinations in the capital.
Sadiq Khan argued the government’s current distribution formula unfairly disadvantages London, which has both the highest population density and highest Covid rates than anywhere else in the country.
It comes after the mayor on Friday declared a “major incident” in London amid concerns the capital’s hospitals will soon be overwhelmed.
“The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control,” Khan said in a statement.
The London Ambulance Service last week said it is now taking up to 8,000 emergency calls a day, compared to around 5,500 on a typical busy day.
More than 800 patients are being admitted to London’s hospitals with coronavirus every day, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens warned on Tuesday.
“That’s equivalent to a new St Thomas’ hospital full of Covid each day”, he added.