More than 1,000 coronavirus deaths have been confirmed in the UK in the highest daily reported figure since April.
The Government said a further 1,041 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday.
It is the highest daily reported total since April 21, when 1,224 deaths were recorded.
It brings the total number of coronavirus deaths in the UK to 77,346, although separate figures published by statistics agencies and additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days show there have now been 93,000 deaths involving Covid-19.
Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious diseases epidemiology at University College London, said he expected coronavirus-related deaths to continue to rise and described Wednesday’s figure as a “grim milestone”.
Prof Hayward, who is a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Radio 4: “I think sadly we can expect the number of deaths to continue to increase for the next few weeks because they’ll lag two or three weeks behind the number of cases in the community, and those have been increasing.
“I think the lockdown measures will turn that number of deaths around but it is going to take a little while.”
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “These figures need to be a wake-up call to the stark impact that the pandemic is having on our friends, neighbours and loved ones and the daily battle being played out across all health and care services against this horrible disease.”
The Government’s figures continue to be affected by a lag in the publication of recent data and will contain some deaths that took place over the Christmas and New Year period that have only just been reported.
Of the 1,041 new deaths, around a third took place before January 1, while some 100 took place in the seven days up to Christmas Day.
The Government also said that, as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 62,322 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, the highest daily total reported in the pandemic so far and a slight increase on Tuesday’s figure of 60,916.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 2,836,801.
The number of cases coincides with higher testing figures compared to the first wave of the pandemic, with 498,624 tests conducted on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, hospital admission of people with Covid-19 also reached another record high, according to figures by NHS England.
A total of 3,587 admissions in England were reported for January 4, passing the previous record of 3,351 on January 3 and the highest number of admissions during the first wave of the virus, which peaked at 3,099 on April 1.