The number of people who have died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus has risen to 73,512 – an increase of 964 over 24 hours.
The government said that, as of 9am on Thursday, there had been a further 55,892 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
It brings the total number of positive tests in the UK since the start of the pandemic to 2,488,780.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England’s medical director, said: “We know the overwhelming majority of deaths reported today are people who sadly passed away in just the last few days. Every life lost to this disease is a sadness. It is imperative we all take action now to protect our families and our friends.
“We have all had to make huge sacrifices this year, but please ensure that you keep your distance from others, wash your hands and wear a mask. A night in at New Year will mean you are significantly reducing your social contacts and can help stop the spread of the virus.”
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 89,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
Rates of infection are continuing to rise in all regions of the country, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England.
It comes as the number of people testing positive for the virus in England also reached a new record high, with a total of 232,169 in the week to December 23 – the highest weekly total since Test and Trace was launched in May.
New restrictions which came into effect at midnight mean a total of 44 million people, or 78% of the population of England, are now living under the toughest Tier 4 measures.
Health trusts continue to face pressure, with Covid patient numbers in England having surpassed the April first-wave peak.
It was disclosed on Wednesday that Buckinghamshire had followed Essex by declaring a major incident amid fears that rising numbers of Covid-19 patients could overwhelm health services.
With 22,713 Covid-19 patients in hospitals in England as of 8am on Wednesday – higher than the first-wave peak – NHS Providers said pressure on hospitals is “intensifying”.
London’s rate of new cases stood at 735.5 per 100,000 people in the seven days to December 27, up from 711.9 in the previous week, according to Public Health England.
Eastern England saw the second highest rate, followed by south-east England, while Yorkshire and the Humber had the lowest rate at 188.3.
Case rates in England remain highest among 30 to 39-year-olds, Public Health England said.
Public Health England’s figures show that rates fell slightly among five to nine-year-olds, 10 to 19-year-olds and people aged 80 and over.