Covid-19: UK reports a record 55,892 daily cases

The UK has reported another 55,892 daily cases of coronavirus, the highest figure on record.

And another 964 people died within 28 days of a positive test, only slightly down on the 981 on Wednesday.

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock appealed to everyone to “take personal responsibility this New Year’s Eve and stay at home”.

He said he knew how much had been sacrificed this year but, with the NHS under pressure, “we cannot let up”.

On Thursday, just after midnight, 20 million more people in England were placed under the toughest restrictions and told to stay at home.

The new restrictions mean 44 million people, or 78% of the population of England, are now in tier four, where non-essential shops, gyms, cinemas and hairdressers have to stay shut.

Public Health England medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said Christmas week had seen a worrying rise in cases – particularly among adults in their 20s and 30s.

“We have all had to make huge sacrifices this year, but please ensure that you keep your distance from others, wash your hands and wear a mask,” she said.

“A night in at new year will mean you are significantly reducing your social contacts and can help stop the spread of the virus.”

The 981 deaths recorded on Wednesday was the highest daily figure since April.

Much of the rise in cases has been blamed on the spread of a new variant, which scientists believe is able to transmit more easily.

It was initially concentrated in the London, the South East and eastern England, but Mr Hancock has said it is now responsible for the “majority” of new cases across the UK.

With the number of Covid patients in hospitals increasing, some are being moved long distances for intensive care.

Dr Michael Marsh, NHS England medical director for the south-west region, said patients had come from Kent to Plymouth and Bristol, where services were “less stretched”.