The UK has recorded another 696 coronavirus deaths overnight – the biggest 24-hour jump for more than six months.
It is the highest daily total since 726 deaths were reported on May 5, and takes the country’s official Covid-19 death toll to 56,533.
However, separate data published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been more than 72,000 deaths registered in the UK where the virus was mentioned on the death certificate.
Mid-week rises can be caused by delays in reporting deaths over the weekend, but today’s rise in fatalities is also 167 higher than last Wednesday’s figure.
Meanwhile, another 18,213 cases have been confirmed over the past 24 hours.
This brings the total number of cases recorded in the UK since the start of the pandemic to 1,557,007.
A number of regions have pleaded with the Government not to place them under “very high risk” Tier 3 measures, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan insisting the capital’s businesses would suffer a “hammer blow” if placed into the top group.
On Thursday, people in England will find out which tier they are being placed in once the national shutdown ends.
The Government has briefly outlined the factors which will influence its decisions, which include case detection rates in all age groups, case detection rates in the over-60s and the rate at which cases are rising or falling.
The two other measures are the positivity rate – the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken – and pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.
Under Tier 3, the highest category, pubs and restaurants will only be able to offer takeaway or delivery services, while large events are banned except for drive-in.
On Tuesday, Mr Khan said the “right and sensible decision” would be to place London in Tier 2, where restrictions on hospitality are less stringent.
Pubs and restaurants can open but alcohol can only be consumed with a “substantial meal”, and people may only sit indoors with their household or support bubble.
The mayor explained: “The cases in London are lower than other parts of the country expected to enter Tier 2.
“London’s unique ecosystem of bars, restaurants, clubs and cultural venues have been through an extremely tough year. If they had to close throughout the Christmas period and beyond in Tier 3, it would be a hammer blow that many might not recover from.
“Without a substantially more generous package of financial aid from the Government, closing much of London’s hospitality sector through December and potentially well into the new year would cause irreversible damage for many of our businesses and for the whole country’s economy.”
A City Hall spokesman added: “There has been no consultation with mayors or local leaders this time on what tier each region should be placed into.
“Mayors have been briefed on the tiers by ministers, but have been told that Government will make a decision based on the data they have.
“London leaders continue to work closely on a cross-party basis and are united in the view that Tier 2 is the right and sensible decision for our city. This has been communicated to the Government.”
On Wednesday, a new study was published suggesting the inefficacy of Tier 1 measures at curbing the spread of infections.
Tier 1 restrictions were largely inadequate and Tier 2 rules were only effective in around half of local authority areas, according to the University of East Anglia study.
Tier 3 restrictions seemed to be effective in most areas, the research which has not yet been peer-reviewed found.
However, the researchers say the real problem lies with regions not being allocated to the most appropriate tier swiftly enough.
They hope their findings will help make the tier system work more effectively as the country comes out of lockdown next week.
Lead researcher and Covid-19 expert Professor Paul Hunter, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We show quite clearly that Tier 1 restrictions were inadequate.
“They had little impact on transmission and allowed exponential growth in the large majority of authorities such as Kingston upon Hull, until it was moved into Tier 2, and Kings Lynn and West Norfolk.
“We found that the impact in Tier 2 areas was mixed.
“Exponential growth was being seen in about about half of authorities so the restrictions were not adequate in those areas.
“However, the infection rate declined in other areas so the restrictions seemed to be enough in some places.
“Tier 3, which barred all indoor household mixing in areas such as Rossendale and South Ribble authorities in Lancashire had the most impact and was effective in most of the authorities in that top tier.”
Prof Hunter said that based on the analysis, almost all of the regions in Tier 1 should have been in Tier 2, and about half of Tier 2 should have been in Tier 3.
He added: “Whilst an additional even more restrictive tier may be needed, the evidence from Tier 3 areas so far suggests that few local authorities would have needed such a more restrictive tier.
“In our view, the main problem was not actually the tiers, but that local authorities were not being put in the most appropriate tier quickly enough.
“The three-tier system would likely have been sufficient to control the epidemic if all authorities had been moved out of Tier 1 into Tier 2, and if those authorities where the epidemic was still increasing in Tier 2 had been moved into Tier 3 more swiftly.
“If authorities were not moved up a tier until the number of rising cases had already gotten out of control, the horse had already bolted.”
Prof Hunter said that as England moves out of national lockdown, a faster mechanism is needed to identify the areas where the epidemic is not being controlled so it can be placed into a more appropriate tier in a timely manner.