The latest daily case figures are the highest since the beginning of the pandemic and mark an increase from the previous record, set on New Year’s Eve, of 55,892.
Of the new cases, 49,248 were reported in England, 3,576 in Northern Ireland, 2,137 in Scotland and 2,764 in Wales.
The figures were released as the government came under increasing pressure to keep all schools closed in England amid fears over the spread of the new, more infectious strain of Covid.
The National Association of Headteachers called for all schools to move to home learning for a “brief and determined period” as it announced legal action against the Department for Education, while the National Education Union said it would inform its members of their legal right not to return to classrooms in “unsafe conditions”.
Experts on the government’s advisory group Sage said that it was “highly unlikely” the R rate of transmission could be brought down to below 1 while schools remained open, as was the case during the second national lockdown in November.
The scientists said: “R would be lower with schools closed, with closure of secondary schools likely to have a greater effect than closure of primary schools. It remains difficult to distinguish where transmission between children takes place, and it is important to consider contacts made outside of schools.”
Following a change of strategy, the second dose of both the Oxford and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will be given 12 weeks after the first jab rather than 3 weeks as initially planned, in an attempt to ensure as many people as possible in at-risk groups are vaccinated.