THE UK has suffered its deadliest Saturday during the Covid second wave after 462 more people died bringing total fatalities to 51,766.
And the grim figures released today show that cases have increased by 26,860 – with a total of 1,344,356 now infected by the killer bug.
In comparison, last Saturday 24,957 new infections were recorded along with 413 deaths from the disease.
This comes after infections surged yesterday by half to 33,470 in a record 24-hour rise.
Experts said the spike in confirmed cases was almost certainly due to a "last hurrah" as Brits partied before lockdown hit on November 5.
In the days before the draconian restrictions were imposed, pictures showed revellers spilling out of bars and pubs.
Meanwhile, Government scientists said today that England's lockdown should end as planned on December 2.
Brits were sent into lockdown last week in a desperate attempt to slow the spread of the killer respiratory disease.
And there are hopes the strict shutdown has been working, with the R rate – which measures the average number of people a coronavirus patient infects – falling back below 1.
The crucial value is now estimated to be 0.9 across the country according to the Covid Symptom Study app while Sage's most recent estimate, published yesterday, is that the R rate is somewhere between 1.1 and 1.3.
And The Times reports that the Tier 3 regional restrictions worked, cutting daily contact by a third.
John Edmunds, who led the study and works with the the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "The tier system did have some impact in reducing contact and especially Tier 3 had a very significant impact.
"Tier 3 restrictions reduced that by 1.5 contacts a day, which in the context of five daily contacts is a big change."
One Sage expert today said the next two weeks would be crucial in the fight against Covid and pulling the country out of lockdown.
Professor Susan Michie told BBC Radio 4: "For the next two weeks, everybody has to really get all their resolve together."
She added it was likely to be "very challenging", insisting it was "partly because of the weather (and) partly because, I think, the promise of a vaccine may be making people feel complacent.
"But the vaccine is very unlikely to come in until the end of the year or beginning of next year and that's going to make no difference to the current second wave."
Government scientists have previously warned the UK has "little to no scope" of relaxing social distancing rules for Christmas.
Their grim forecast, dated November 4, warns: "If England returns to the same application of the tiering system in place before November 5, then transmission will return to the same rate of increase as today."
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