Britain today recorded another 830 Covid deaths as official statistics show the number of daily deaths has more than doubled week-on-week.
Department of Health bosses also posted another record-high number of daily cases, with 60,916 new infections added to the ever-growing toll.
Today’s deaths mark a 107.7 per cent rise on the 414 victims announced last Tuesday, while daily infections have risen by 14.6 per cent from the 53,135 reported a week ago.
The figures were released just half-an-hour before Boris Johnson faces the nation, as he bets the house on a fast vaccine roll-out to end the endless cycle of lockdown.
The Prime Minister is to hold a press conference at 5pm alongside medical and science chiefs Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance — whose warnings about the threat of the NHS being overwhelmed sparked the extraordinary U-turn to plunge England into new restrictions.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director for Public Health England, warned the ‘highly concerning’ rise in cases — which is up 14.6 per cent on last Tuesday’s figure — ‘will mean yet more pressure on our health services in the depths of winter’.
She added: ‘That is why if we can, we must stay at home, reduce contacts and do everything possible to break the spread of this virus. It is by no means easy, but now more than ever we must all do our part to protect the NHS and save lives.’
As England gets used to the idea of a third national lockdown and months more coronavirus chaos:
Rishi Sunak today announced another £4.6billion of bailouts for lockdown-stricken businesses as economists warned of the ‘colossal’ hit from the surging pandemic;
Arrivals at UK borders are set to have to show they have tested negative for Covid in the last 72 hours in another major U-turn from government;
Police have warned that enforcing the lockdown will be difficult with large numbers of officers already off sick or self-isolating;
Scientists have warned that even the new tough measures might not be enough to contain the mutant coronavirus strain;
Leaked documents released today show how five days of ‘liberty’ ruined the second England-wide lockdown in November;
Streets and city centres were quiet as Britons digested the new restrictions being placed on their lives;
Hundreds of medical professionals have called for hospital staff to be given higher grade personal protective equipment (PPE) amid growing concern over airborne transmission of coronavirus.
Last night Boris Johnson pulled his most screeching U-turn yet when he told the nation that the rapid spread of a new, more infectious variant of the disease meant he had no choice but to order people to stay at home.
But just 36 hours earlier Mr Johnson was encouraging parents to send their children back to classrooms this week and insisting tougher restrictions ‘may be’ required ‘in the next few weeks’.
Ultimately it was cold, hard statistics that prompted Mr Johnson to perform the dramatic volte-face. Mr Johnson’s top scientific experts, led by Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty, yesterday presented him with data which showed the number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals in England had almost hit 27,000 on January 4.
That number represented an increase of nearly one third in the space of just seven days. The peak of hospital admissions during the first wave last year was 18,974 which was recorded on April 12. That means hospital admissions are now 40 per cent above the highest level seen during the first wave.
The PM was also told that on December 29 more than 80,000 people who took a test on December 29 returned a positive result – a frighteningly high new record – with a further 65,571 cases recorded on December 30.
The number of deaths had also increased by 20 per cent in a week while the case rate in England up to December 30 was over 518 per 100,000 people.
That number is three times the level recorded on December 1 when the case rate stood at 151.3 per 100,000. Experts warned Mr Johnson that cases are rising rapidly in every part of the country.
The UK’s four chief medical officers then announced just after 6pm that they had recommended the Covid alert level be elevated from Level 4 to the top Level 5 for the first time.
Level 5 means there is a risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed within 21 days unless urgent action is taken. Combined, the numbers and warnings painted such a grim picture that Mr Johnson moved immediately to impose another national lockdown, lasting until at least the middle of February.
Addressing the nation from 10 Downing Street at 8pm yesterday evening, the PM said: ‘With most of the country already under extreme measures, it is clear that we need to do more, together, to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.
‘In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant. That means the Government is once again instructing you to stay at home.’