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Coronavirus: UK daily death toll nears 1,000 as more areas of England moved to tightest restrictions

The UK’s daily COVID-19 death toll hit 981 on Wednesday, as the country continued to grapple with a new variant of the virus.

This is the country’s highest number of recorded deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test since April.

The total number of people who have lost their lives to the disease in the UK now stands at 72,548.

It comes after several more areas of England will be moved into the country’s highest level of coronavirus measures from midnight on Wednesday, health minister Matt Hancock has announced.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to “redouble our efforts”, follow the rules where they live and “see in the New Year safely at home”. He also hailed the approval by medical authorities of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

Doctors in Britain say they are currently facing enormous pressure from the new coronavirus variant as it threatens a worse situation than at the peak last April.

There are currently more people in hospital with COVID-19 than in spring – and infections are still rising.

As of Wednesday, there were 23,771 people being treated for the disease in hospitals in the UK, compared with 18,974 in mid-April.

Monday also saw a record-breaking 41,385 cases in a single day, only to be shattered on Tuesday when 53,135 new cases were reported. By Wednesday, which saw a total of 50,023 cases reported, the south-eastern county of Essex had declared a “major incident” due to healthcare services struggling with demand.