United Kingdom reports record 1,325 coronavirus deaths over 24 hours

A digital display at a bus station warns pedestrians of the new strain of coronavirus in central London on Friday. | AFP-JIJI

Projections leaked to the Health Service Journal (HSJ) showed that even if the number of COVID-19 patients increased at the lowest rate considered likely, London hospitals would be almost 2,000 acute and intensive beds short by January 19.

"Each life lost to this virus is a tragedy, but sadly we can expect the death toll to continue to rise until we stop the spread", said Dr. William Welfare, Director for the COVID-19 response at Public Health England.

The previous deadliest day of the pandemic was on April 21 during the peak of the first wave when 1,224 people died from coronavirus.

The UK government said the victims died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19, bringing the UK's total virus death toll to 79,833.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also urging compliance of the public to tackle the crisis.

Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London, said there is still "a lot of household contact" and that the "wide definition of critical workers" means "30-50% of (school) classes (are) full-up".

The rise in infections is in part due to the new much more contagious variant of Covid-19 that was detected a year ago.

England was put back in lockdown on Monday.

Currently, there are parts of London where one in 20 people has the virus.

Asked by the BBC whether he believed the NHS could be overwhelmed in two weeks, he said: "I never thought in my entire career that I would say something like this but yes, I do". "Not just me. I think probably most of the people I talk to, epidemiologists, and medical scientists and virologists".

Coronavirus cases are expected to drop in the spring due to vaccination plus the fact people spend more time outdoors, making it harder for the virus to spread.

Data shows hospitals are also seeing far more younger people than during the first wave.

Between 30 December and 6 January, the number of patients in London hospitals grew by 27 per cent (from 5,524 to 7,034) and the number on mechanical ventilation grew by 42 per cent (from 640 to 908).

The Office for National Statistics estimated that 1.1 million people in England had the coronavirus in the week to January 2, the equivalent of one person in 50.

The Mayor of London has declared a "major incident" over the increase of Covid-19 cases in the British capital's hospitals.

London and the south-east of England have been the areas worst-hit by the new variant.

At the same time, the United Kingdom regulator approved USA firm Moderna's COVID vaccine - the third to be authorized for use in the country's mass inoculation programme.

Earlier this week Mr Johnson suggested the limiting factor in expanding the UK's vaccine rollout is waiting for batches of the jab to be tested.