More than one million people in England – or one in 50 – had coronavirus last week, official statistics suggest.
An estimated 1.1 million people in private households in England had Covid-19 between December 27 and January 2, according to new figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is the equivalent of around 2.06% of the population, or one in 50 people.
It represents a rise from 800,900 people, or one in 70, who were estimated to have Covid-19 in the period December 17 to 23.
The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.
Commenting on the figures, Boris Johnson said that “when everybody looks at the position people understand overwhelmingly that we have no choice” but to impose a seven-week lockdown.
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said that one in 50 people being estimated to have coronavirus across the UK is “really quite a large number indeed”.
Appearing alongside the prime minister at a Downing Street press conference, he said that November’s second lockdown brought down rates.
“But then we had the problems with the new variant and the worst period of winter combining to lead to a significant increase since that time,” he said.
“And we’re now into a situation where, across the country as a whole, roughly one in 50 people have got the virus.
“One in 50 is really quite a large number indeed.”
It came as the UK recorded its highest ever total of 60,916 coronavirus cases in 24 hours, while 830 more deaths were reported on Tuesday.
Johnson meanwhile revealed that 1.3 million people in the UK – including 1.1 million in England – have now received the coronavirus vaccine.
That includes 650,000 people over the age of 80 – nearly 23% of all the over 80s in England.
“That means nearly one-in-four of the most vulnerable groups will have in two to three weeks a significant degree of immunity,” he said.
“That is why I believe the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation was right to draw up a programme saving the most lives the fastest.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “The number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths released today have been utterly terrifying.
“It is a terrible tragedy that Boris Johnson could have acted sooner and didn’t – that failure could have cost many lives.
“The prime minister must now deliver on his 13m vaccine target by mid-February, it is the only way out of this mess.
“The government must also urgently announce plans to help small businesses and the self employed and make sure every pupil in England has access to a laptop or tablet computer.”