The tragic figure was released the day after Boris Johnson plunged England back into a national lockdown after a huge surge in new cases – and Michael Gove warned restrictions could stay in place until March

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There were 582 fatalities in England, 17 in Wales, 11 in Scotland and 18 in Northern Ireland.

The tragic figure was released after Boris Johnson last night plunged England back into lockdown, ordering schools to close their doors again just one day into the new term.

A week ago there were 419 hospital deaths, while a month ago, on December 5, there were 368.

Last night figures released by the Department of Health showed Covid-19 had been mentioned on 82,624 death certificates since the start of the pandemic.

It comes as authorities battle to tackle a mutated strain which scientists believe is more than 50% more transmissible.

Yesterday a further 58,784 new cases were confirmed, bringing the number of people testing positive in seven days to 383,834.

Mr Johnson is to hold a No 10 press conference today, just hours after plunging England into a third national lockdown.

The PM will be joined by the chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, and the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, at 5pm.

It came as it emerged that tough new coronavirus restrictions may have to remain in place until March, senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove warned, as England enters its third national lockdown.

In a televised address on Monday, Boris Johnson announced stringent new controls – including closing schools to most pupils – in an attempt to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed by a surge in new infections.

At the same time, the Prime Minister raised the prospect that the vaccination programme being rolled out across the country could enable restrictions to be progressively eased from mid-February.

But, in a round of broadcast interviews on Tuesday morning, Mr Gove said relaxation of the rules may have to wait until the following month – and that even then some measures may have to remain in place.

“We will keep these constantly under review, but we can’t predict with certainty that we will be able to lift restrictions in the week commencing February 15-22,” he told Sky News.

“What we will be doing is everything that we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated, so that we can begin to progressively lift restrictions.

“I think it is right to say that, as we enter March, we should be able to lift some of these restrictions, but not necessarily all.”


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