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The UK's coronavirus hospital death toll has increased by 1,185 – the biggest single-day jump of the entire pandemic.
England reported 1,027 new fatalities, Scotland had 92, Wales recorded 44 and Northern Ireland had 22 to bring the hospital total to 74,807.
By comparison, the tolls announced on recent Wednesdays were 1,176 on January 13 (the previous record high), 831 on January 6, 556 on December 30, 535 on December 23 and 445 on December 16.
The highest increase on a Wednesday was 936 fatalities on April 8, when the UK was in the deadliest days of its first wave.
Figures tend to spike on Tuesdays and Wednesdays following a weekend reporting lag.
The latest totals came as the UK's chief scientific adviser said vaccines are not doing enough "heavy lifting" at the moment and case rates need to drop further before the Government can think of easing lockdown restrictions.
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NHS medics wearing PPE treat a patient in an intensive care unit (file photo)
(Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)
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Sir Patrick Vallance said the country still had a long way to go in battling coronavirus but in a direct message to the public said there was "light at the end of the tunnel".
The Government needs to hit an average of 384,000 first doses per day to reach a target of vaccinating 15 million of the most vulnerable by February 15.
It has pledged that all those in the top priority groups, including the over-70s and frontline health and social care workers, will have received an offer to have had their first dose of the jab given to them by mid-February.
The Government's official death toll (in all settings) is approaching 92,000 fatalities within 28 days of a positive test, but the true total is more than 105,000 when all death certificates mentioning Covid-19 are included.
The number of coronavirus hospital admissions in England
(Image: Press Association Images)
NHS England reported a further 1,027 deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in NHS hospitals to 63,322.
A total of 4,419,704 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between December 8 and January 19, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 301,362 on Tuesday's figures.
Of this number, 3,985,579 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 298,3730 on Tuesday's figures, while 434,125 were the second dose, an increase of 2,989.
The Government's programme to test pupils and staff daily in secondary schools and colleges as an alternative to self-isolation will be "paused" in the latest in a string of U-turns.
Public Health England (PHE) and NHS Test and Trace recommended that the daily testing in schools and colleges was paused as they said the balance between the risks and benefits were "unclear" in light of the new variant.
Scotland has recorded 92 deaths from coronavirus and 1,656 positive tests in the past 24 hours, Nicola Sturgeon said.
It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 5,468.
The figures are lower than the 7,448 deaths given earlier by the National Records of Scotland as they do not include suspected and probable coronavirus infections.
The daily number of confirmed new cases of Covid-19 has been dropping
(Image: Press Association Images)
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said 166,583 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 164,927 the previous day.
The daily test positivity rate is 7.5%, down from 12% on the previous day.
There are 2,003 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, up 14 in 24 hours, and 156 patients are in intensive care, an increase of six.
Ms Sturgeon said 309,909 have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Public Health Wales announced 44 deaths, taking its total to 4,346.
It said a total of 175,816 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had now been given, an increase of 13,884 on the previous day's figure.
The agency said 370 second doses were also given, an increase of 105.
More than 10,000 people are receiving their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Wales each day – equivalent to seven people being vaccinated every minute, health minister Vaughan Gething said.
Mr Gething told a press conference in Cardiff that more than five per cent of Wales had now been vaccinated.
Northern Ireland's death toll increased by 22 to 1,671.
Meanwhile, Sir Patrick, in a Q&A with Sky News viewers, was asked if the lockdown would be kept in place if infection figures stayed the same or dropped.
He said: "The advice at the moment is vaccines are not going to do the heavy lifting for us at the moment, anywhere near it.
"This is about, I'm afraid, the restrictive measures which we're all living under and carrying on with those.
Paramedics attend to a patient in the rear of an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital in London on Wednesday
"The numbers are nowhere near where they need to be at the moment, they need to come down quite a lot further – we need to make sure we stick with it.
"You go for a walk in the park or something, life looks normal; you go for a walk in a hospital, if you work in a hospital, you will see life not looking normal at all.
"This is a really difficult, dangerous situation we're in, and we need to get the numbers down, so I don't see a release of these measures as being a sensible thing to do in the short term."
He said it was hoped that as the vaccine took effect and cases dropped, it would be possible to start a gradual release of some of the measures.
But he warned: "I think it's important to recognise this is not going to be a sort of big bang, 'great, take the lid off, everything's fine, we can all go back to normal'.
"This is going to be a slow release, monitoring carefully, understanding the effects."
Sir Patrick said that through the summer and into winter "things will be a lot better" because a large proportion of the population will have been vaccinated.
He said some restrictions may be needed next winter such as mask-wearing in certain places, keeping up with hand washing and "being sensible" about interacting indoors, but he would "be very surprised if we go on year on year with needing to do things more than that".
Covid-19 vaccines being rolled out in the UK and around the world may be less effective against a new variant of coronavirus that has emerged in South Africa, scientists have said.
In a new study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers from South Africa also found that the SA variant, known as 501Y.V2, contains mutations that may be resistant to immunity from previous coronavirus infection.