More than 80,000 have died from coronavirus in Britain within 28 days of a positive test, according to official figures.
The UK recorded nearly 60,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of people who have tested positive since the start of the pandemic to more than three million.
The true figure of those infected however is believed to be much higher.
The country, which is the worst hit by the virus in Europe, also recorded 1,035 additional deaths from the disease in 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 80,868, according to the UK’s Department of Health.
Only the United States, Brazil, India, and Mexico have recorded more deaths from coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
It comes as the UK continues to battle the spread of a more contagious variant of the virus.
Experts called on the government to strengthen current lockdown restrictions as a second wave gripped the country.
Talking to the BBC’s Today programme, Professor Susan Michie, a health psychologist who advises the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said that while compliance with the government’s third lockdown in England was high, too much social mixing was still taking place.
“This is quite a lax lockdown,” she said. “Because we’ve still got a lot of household contact, people go in and out of each other’s houses, if you’re a cleaner, a non-essential tradesperson, a nanny; you have mass gatherings in terms of religious events, nurseries being open”.
The UK has continued to set new records of infections in recent weeks, reaching a peak of 68,053 new cases on Friday.
By January 3, 3,981 adult critical care beds were occupied in England, over 500 more than at any point in the past four winters.
A second wave and a spiraling infection rate could have been avoided had the government acted on scientific advice it was given, Professor Robert West, a participant in the UK’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), told the BBC.
“This is the really frustrating thing for all of us who work in public health. This was always avoidable.
“When the government says – I’m going to be quite critical now I’m afraid – but when the government says ‘oh we’re in the same boat as other countries, we didn’t see this coming,’ and so on, and ‘we’re acting at the right time’. That is completely false”.
NHS doctor and campaigner Dr Phil Hammond tweeted: “My lesson of the year is that we were very ill-prepared to manage the pandemic, & to mitigate the harms of our pandemic management”:
He added: “That’s because we are a hugely unequal society where the poorest die a decade sooner, & suffer 20 more years of disease. And that was before Covid”.