The UK has recorded nearly 50,000 new Covid-19 infections, according to the latest government figures.
For the eighth consecutive day, more than 40,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported, amounting to 49,139 new infections tallied on Wednesday.
There have been 320,594 people with a confirmed positive test result over the past seven days – an increase of 17 per cent compared to the previous week.
The latest figures also showed there were 179 new deaths recorded within 28 days of positive test, taking the total to 139,031.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 164,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Over the last week, there have been 954 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. This shows an increase of 21 per cent compared to the previous seven days.
On Tuesday, the death toll rose by 223, the highest figure for daily reported deaths since 9 March.
Ministers are coming under pressure to bring back some Covid restrictions, with one NHS leader saying without them the country risks “stumbling into a winter crisis”.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, urged the government to implement the back-up strategy which involves measures including bringing back mandatory face coverings in public places.
Downing Street has said it is keeping a “very close eye” on rising case rates, but added the prime minister has “absolutely no plan to introduce Plan B”, which could also involve introducing vaccine passports for nightclub entry.
Professor Andrew Hayward, of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the rise in infections is among secondary school aged children, and added “we need to get the vaccinations up there as they can pass it on to their family members”.
He said a faster uptake of jabs in this age group would “certainly help” bring down infection levels.
Across the UK as a whole, 7,891 patients with Covid-19 were in hospital as of 20 October, up around 10 per cent week-on-week. Nearly 40,000 Covid-19 patients were in hospital at the peak of the second wave in January.
The weekly rate of new reported cases of Covid-19 in the UK is one of the highest in the world, having jumped from 367 cases per 100,000 people at the start of October to its current level of 463 per 100,000.
By contrast, rates have dropped to low levels in neighbouring countries such as Spain (24 per 100,000), France (48) and Germany (80).