Coronavirus deaths area decreasing in four regions in England, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Data recorded in the week to 1 January showed sharp rises in several areas of the country despite the number of registrations being impacted by the Boxing Day and New Year’s Day bank holidays.
South-east England saw the highest rise in deaths with 523 registered in the week to 1 January, up from 415 in the previous week and the highest since 15 May.
London was second worst-affected with 492 COVID deaths, up from 299 and the highest since 1 May.
The number of deaths involving #COVID19 decreased in four out of nine English regions but continued to increase in
▪️ the North West
▪️ the East of England
▪️ the South East
▪️ the South West
➡ https://t.co/EQaom7H3V9 pic.twitter.com/7HKsw9rOqo
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) January 12, 2021
North-west England had 359 deaths, up from 343; eastern England 325, up from 301; and south-west England 158, up from 155.
But there were also declines in the number of COVID-related deaths in four regions, Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East, West Midlands and East Midlands.
In the North East the number of weekly deaths attributed to COVID was down from 180 to 157, and Yorkshire and the Humber went from 285 to 266.
While weekly deaths in the East Midlands decreased from 337 to 249 and in the West Midlands they went down from 316 to 302.
In total there were 3,144 deaths registered in the week ending January 1 which mentioned COVID on the death certificate.
Watch: UK death toll at 81,960
The increase means there have now been a total of 98,379 deaths involving coronavirus in the UK.
A total of 93,030 have been registered where COVID was mentioned on the death certificate, according to the latest reports from the UK's statistics agencies.
This includes 84,449 in England and Wales up to January 1, which were confirmed by the ONS on Tuesday.
Since these statistics were compiled, a further 4,869 deaths have occurred in England, plus 117 in Scotland, 245 in Wales and 118 in Northern Ireland, according to additional data published on the government's coronavirus dashboard.
It comes after health secretary Matt Hancock warned that the UK is currently at the "worst point" of the pandemic.
Hancock said the new variant of coronavirus was putting the NHS under "significant pressure", adding it was "imperative" that people limit their social contacts.
"The NHS, more than ever before, needs everybody to be doing something right now – and that something is to follow the rules," he said.
Watch: Boris Johnson says government considering stricter lockdown measures
"I know there has been speculation about more restrictions, and we don't rule out taking further action if it is needed, but it is your actions now that can make a difference."
Hancock’s warning echoed England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty who said the next few weeks will be "the worst" of the pandemic for the NHS.
Prof Whitty told BBC One's Breakfast: "This is everybody's problem.
“Any single unnecessary contact you have with someone is a potential link in a chain of transmission that will lead to a vulnerable person."
He added that "anybody who is not shocked" by the number of people in hospital "has not understood this at all".
"This is an appalling situation," he said.
Ministers are currently weighing up whether to enforce the current lockdown measures more strictly and whether even tighter restrictions may be needed.
The prime minister reportedly spoke with senior ministers on Sunday to evaluate "whether the current lockdown rules were working" in reducing the spike of coronavirus cases.
Johnson is said to be considering scrapping the exemption allowing people to exercise with one other person from outside of their household or support bubble and telling supermarkets to crack down on people breaking social distancing measures.
Asked about the prospect of tougher measures, Hancock told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: "I don't want to speculate because the most important message is not whether the Government will further strengthen the rules.
"The most important thing is that people stay at home and follow the rules that we have got."
Watch: What is long Covid?