T

he UK has recorded more than 58,700 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours – the highest daily figure to date.

It is the first time the figure has exceeded 58,000 overnight.

It takes the total number of infections recorded across Britain since the start of the pandemic to 2,713,563.

The Government also said a further 407 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the official national total to 75,431.

However, separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been more than 91,000 deaths involving the virus in the UK. 

Responding to the latest figures, Public Health England’s medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle, said: “The continuous rise in cases and deaths should be a bitter warning for us all.

“We must not forget the basics – the lives of our friends and family depend on it.

“Keep your distance from others, wash your hands and wear a mask. This virus will transmit wherever you let your guard down.”

It comes as England braces for a fresh national lockdown, with Boris Johnson to set out new emergency measures in a televised briefing.

A No 10 spokesman said that the move was in response to the “rapidly escalating” numbers of infections following the emergence of the new variant.

The statement, to be made at 8pm on Monday, will be followed by the recall of Parliament on Wednesday so MPs can debate the measures.

The spokesman said: “The spread of the new variant of Covid-19 has led to rapidly escalating case numbers across the country.

“The Prime Minister is clear that further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise and to protect the NHS and save lives.”

The move comes as Nicola Sturgeon announced Scotland will go into lockdown for the rest of January with a legal requirement to stay at home and schools closed to most pupils until February.

Setting out the measures to come into force from Tuesday, the First Minister told MSPs in Holyrood: “It is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year.”

The UK’s chief medical officers are understood to have agreed to raise the Covid-19 alert level to five – its highest – meaning there is a risk of the NHS being “overwhelmed”.

The alert level is based on a recommendation by the Joint Biosecurity Centre to the four chief medical officers.

Earlier, during a visit to a vaccination centre in north London, Mr Johnson acknowledged there was “no question” the further measures would be necessary, as cases continue to surge across the country.

The latest data show a 41% rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus patients in hospital in England between Christmas Day and January 3, figures which have caused alarm in Whitehall and the health service.

While ministers hailed the rollout of the new Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Mr Johnson warned the nation needed to prepare for some “tough” weeks ahead as the jab was extended to the most vulnerable.

With 78 per cent of England’s population already under the toughest current restrictions, ministers have been examining how successful the Tier 4 measures – which came into force for the first time on December 20 – have been.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt called for immediate action to close schools, shut borders and ban household mixing, saying the situation was “off-the-scale worse” than previous winter crises faced by the NHS.

“In the face of exponential growth even waiting an extra day causes many avoidable deaths so these plans must now be urgently accelerated,” he said.

Senior Tory Neil O’Brien said procedures “need to toughen up at the border” in order to prevent cases being imported – a particular concern given the potential for new variants such as the one in South Africa.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he hoped the Prime Minister would respond to the “clear calls for tough national restrictions”.

He insisted new measures were needed to “get the virus under control, protect the NHS and create the space for the vaccine to be rolled out as quickly as humanly possible”.

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