The UK has recorded its highest daily number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began amid concern that infections are rising quickly among the elderly.
Another 33,470 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the 24 hours before 9am on Thursday, according to the latest Government figures.
A further 563 people died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus as of Thursday.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said the highest rates of infections were among younger generations.
But she said: “Worryingly it is rising quickly in those over 80 who are most at risk of poor outcomes.
“The current measures are in place to help protect all of us, and anyone can suffer serious illness from this virus.
“The majority of cases reported today were from tests carried out on the 9th and 10th of November, which includes infections acquired in the days leading up to new measures on the 5th November.
“Limiting contact with others will help to stop the spread of the virus and protect the people we love.”
However Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, played down the increase at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday evening.
He said: “It is important to look at the number of cases reported over a number of days and not just take one day in isolation.
“It is clear that infection rates have been going up. What is really important is to get those infection rates down.”
He said it was “too early to say” whether England’s national lockdown was having an effect, but warned people not to expect life to return to normal when restrictions are lifted on December 2.
“We will not be going back completely to normal – there will need to be other measures in place because while this virus is still here, we need to ensure that infection rates stay as low as possible and that we reduce the chance of transmission.”
Separately, research by Imperial College London’s React study suggested around 100,000 new coronavirus infections were occurring per day in England at the start of the second lockdown last week.
Experts said infections rose sharply across the country with more than one in 80 people infected, double that reported in early October. They observed a drop in prevalence at the end of October but then a quick uptick at the start of November.
In other developments:
– Stormont ministers agreed to new Covid-19 restrictions for Northern Ireland that will see an extension of the current circuit-break lockdown followed by a partial reopening of the hospitality sector, sources said.
– Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that most of Greece has been removed from the Government’s list of travel corridors.
– New data showed that the NHS Test and Trace system is continuing to struggle to reach much more than 60% of the close contacts of people who test positive for the virus.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “As we have seen throughout this pandemic, there can be daily fluctuations in data so it is important to avoid drawing conclusions from one day’s figures. We must instead focus on the wider trend which is increasing, particularly in those at highest risk of disease.
“There was a rise in infections prior to national restrictions being brought in place and it is vital everyone continues to follow the guidance and takes care to wash hands, wear face coverings and reduce social contact – all of which proved to be highly effective in bringing down transmission rates earlier this year.”