The UK has recorded more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in just 24 hours.
The latest data emerged on the first day of England’s third nationwide lockdown, announced on Monday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
That was sparked by a new, more infectious variant of COVID-19 that began spreading in the country before Christmas.
Figures released by the UK government on Wednesday afternoon showed there had been 1,041 COVID fatalities recorded in the last 24-hour period. There was also a record number of new COVID-19 cases, at 62,322.
More than 403,000 have tested positive over the previous seven days — a near 43 per cent increase in the previous week.
Southeastern and northwestern England, as well as Northern Ireland, are particularly hard hit with seven-day incidence rates ranging from 400 to 799 cases per 100,000 population. But the capital, which recorded nearly 15,000 infections, is the most severely impacted with 971 cases per 100,000 population.
The lockdown in England is expected to last until mid-February during which time the government plans to vaccinate 13.9 million people. These would include everyone over the age of 70, vulnerable people as well as healthcare and frontline workers.
“After the marathon of last year we are indeed now in a sprint, a race to vaccinate the vulnerable faster than the virus can reach them. Every needle in every arm makes a difference. As I say, we’re already vaccinating faster than every comparable country, and that rate I hope will only increase,” Johnson told lawmakers on Wednesday.
“But if we’re going to win this race for our population we have to give our army of vaccinators the biggest headstart we possibly can. And that is why, My Speaker, we must once again stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” he added.
So far, 1.3 million people have received the jab, including nearly a quarter of all people over the age of 80 in England.
The UK was the first country in the world to authorise and roll out the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNtech in early December.
It has since then also approved the use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, of which the country has ordered 100 million doses.