The government has released figures showing a record number of daily deaths for the second day running, as 1,820 people died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus – the highest number since the pandemic began.
Prime minister Boris Johnson blamed the “appalling” death toll on a new variant of the disease as he warned “there will be more to come”.
The leap in fatalities - up more than 10 per cent on the previous record - came as the team behind the Oxford vaccine was understood to be planning new versions of its jab in response to the different coronavirus variants that have emerged in the UK and elsewhere.
Scientists at the university were found to be assessing the ability of their jab to tackle new variants as another team of researchers found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was likely to provide protection against the one first detected in the UK.
The new study suggests the Pfizer jab can overcome a number of genetic changes in the virus after testing the vaccine against a synthetic virus with 10 mutations that are characteristic of the UK variant.
However, separate research has suggested that vaccines may be less effective against the new variant of coronavirus that emerged in South Africa.