ALMOST 1,000 more Brits have lost their lives to coronavirus in the highest toll since April as the entire country prepares to head into Tier 3 and 4 measures tonight.
A further 981 have died and 50,023 more have been diagnosed with coronavirus overnight – the second highest increase ever – amid rocketing infection rates.
The death toll is likely to swell in the coming days after a reporting lag over Christmas. Scotland and Northern Ireland didn’t record deaths over the festive period.
Millions more are heading into Tier 4 measures tomorrow – as three-quarters of the country face the harshest restrictions from midnight.
Yesterday, a record 53,135 cases were recorded as hospital admissions go well past the April peak.
Now a slew of new areas are heading into the strictest measures as officials try to stop the spread of a mutant strain of the virus.
Three-quarters of Brits will be in Tier 4 from midnight.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement after warning we “have to take further action”.
Today, he told MPs the weekly case rate in England rose to 402.6 per 100,000 people between December 18 and 24 – a 32 per cent increase on the previous week.
And 18 per cent more people are battling the illness in hospital week-on-week, with 14,915 patients on wards across the country.
In hospitals in England, another 494 people have died with the virus.
Patients were aged between 30 and 100. All except 20, aged between 36 and 92, had known underlying health conditions.
The highest number of fatalities – 109 – were recorded in the north-west.
In London, 83 people lost their lives, while 94 died in the Midlands, 71 in the north-east and Yorkshire and 65 in the south-east.
A further 40 died in the east of England and 32 in the south-west.
In Wales, there have been another 2,281 cases recorded, as well as 13 deaths.
Yesterday, half of the 485 tests administered in Bridgend, west of Cardiff, returned a positive result.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, 2,045 more positive tests were confirmed and another 43 deaths were reported.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said today that the between December 17 and 23, 800,900 people in England – 1.47 per cent of the population, or one in 70 – had Covid.
The percentage of people testing positive has continued to increase sharply in London, the east, and the south-east, while rates in the north-west, West Midlands and south-west are on the up.
Infections are no longer decreasing in Yorkshire and The Humber, the north-east and the East Midlands.
Essex is now the worst-hit place in England.
Brentwood has the highest rates in the country, with 1,258.1 cases per 100,000 people.
Nearby Epping Forest and Thurrock are in second and third place on the grim hitlist, with 1,256 and 1,181.6 cases respectively.
A ‘major incident’ has been declared at hospitals in the county as patients are treated in the back of ambulances and medics prepare to work in tents usually reserved for terror attacks.