The deaths of 981 people who tested positive for coronavirus in the UK have been recorded in 24 hours as the disease continues to ravage the country.
The daily death toll is now at its highest since April 24, when it hit 1,010. It brings the UK total to 72,548.
As of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 50,023 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 2,432,888.
While the daily figure reported is the highest for months, there is likely to be a lag in reporting deaths over the Christmas period.
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 88,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
The update came amid a flurry of news on the impact on Covid-19 on the UK.
The UK has approved a new Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca as millions more people were plunged into the toughest Tier 4 lockdown restrictions.
The jab, described as a “game changer”, was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the vaccine is a “great British success story” and 530,000 of doses will be available for rollout from Monday.
But he announced in the Commons that more parts of the country are entering Tier 4, with most other areas moving to Tier 3.
Among the areas moving to Tier 4 are the Midlands, parts of the north east and north west and parts of the south west.
An additional 20 million people will moved to the highest tier. This means a total of 44 million people will now be in Tier 4, or 78% of the population of England.
Some 12 million people will be in Tier 3, or 22% of the population, while no area will be in Tier 2.
According to the Department of Health, between December 18 and 24, the weekly Covid-19 case rate in England rose to 402.6 per 100,000, a 32% increase on the previous week.