Britain today recorded 981 Covid deaths in the deadliest day of the pandemic since April and posted 50,000 more cases, as another 20million people were plunged into the toughest restrictions in a desperate attempt to control the spiralling second wave.
Department of Health figures show the daily number of deaths is up 31 per cent in a week, with 744 added to the tally last Wednesday.
Health chiefs also posted another 50,023 cases in the past 24 hours, which is up by 27 per cent on the 39,237 announced last Wednesday. The spike in infections is not down to reporting delays, Public Health England has said.
It comes as Number 10 announced three quarters of England will be in Tier 4 from midnight, adding the rest of the South East, Midlands, North East, parts of the North West and parts of the South West to the top bracket.
All remaining areas – barring just 2,000 people on the Isles of Scilly – are being escalated to Tier 3, including Liverpool, previously seen as an example of how to cope with the disease. It means virtually the whole of England is facing brutal lockdown until the Spring.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are already in the midst of their own clampdowns amid fears over the more infectious ‘mutant’ strain that is running riot.
Making clear that hopes for a return to normality now hang on massively scaling up the vaccine rollout, Matt Hancock claimed regulatory approval for the Oxford/University AstraZeneca jab means the crisis can be defeated by Spring.
However, even if the government manages to crank up vaccinations to two million doses a week, it will still take months to cover enough of the population to ease restrictions safely.