Another 33,470 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the last 24 hours – the highest figure recorded since the pandemic began, according to government figures.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 1,290,195.
On Wednesday, 22,950 people tested positive, while the number of UK deaths since the start of the pandemic surpassed 50,000.
The number of people to have died with the virus in the UK over the last 24 hours rose by 563 – down from yesterday’s figure of 595, which was the highest since mid-May.
The total number of deaths in the UK is now 50,928.
Experts have previously warned that describing the daily figure as a record could be “misleading” as it is not clear how many people were actually infected during the height of the first wave, due to a lack of community testing at the time.
The UK now has the highest number of recorded deaths in the European Union.
The tragic stories of coronavirus deaths in the UK have included the oldest known victim, 108-year-old Hilda Churchill who had survived the Spanish flu pandemic, and the youngest victim; a 13-day-old baby.
Addressing a Downing Street news conference, NHS England’s medical director Professor Stephen Powis said of the latest daily figures: “It is important to look at the number of cases reported over a number of days and not just take one day in isolation.
“It is clear that infection rates have been going up. What is really important is to get those infection rates down.”
He also said that life will not return to normal when England’s national lockdown ends on 2 December.
“We will not be going back completely to normal – there will need to be other measures in place because while this virus is still here, we need to ensure that infection rates stay as low as possible and that we reduce the chance of transmission,” Prof Powis said.
“Exactly what those measures are, I think it is too early to say yet – we’re only one week into this four-week lockdown.
“We need to see what transpires over the next few weeks and I’m sure as it comes up to early December, government – as will scientists – will be looking at the data over the weeks in November and then considering what the best menu of measures will be going into December.”
Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said the highest rates of infections were among younger generations.
But she said: “Worryingly it is rising quickly in those over 80 who are most at risk of poor outcomes”.
This is slightly up on the previous week’s figure of 59.9%, making it one of the lowest rates since the scheme began.
Figures also show that 149,253 people tested positive for COVID-19 at least once in England in the same week – the highest weekly number since the system was launched in May, and an 8% increase on the previous week.
However, of the 141,804 people referred to Test and Trace in that week, 85% were reached and asked to provide a list of recent close contacts – the highest weekly percentage since it began, and up slightly on the week before.
Responding to the high number of coronavirus cases recorded on Thursday, the Department of Health and Social Care said: “As we have seen throughout this pandemic, there can be daily fluctuations in data so it is important to avoid drawing conclusions from one day’s figures.
“We must instead focus on the wider trend which is increasing, particularly in those at highest risk of disease.
“There was a rise in infections prior to national restrictions being brought in place and it is vital everyone continues to follow the guidance and takes care to wash hands, wear face coverings and reduce social contact – all of which proved to be highly effective in bringing down transmission rates earlier this year.”