The UK has recorded another 696 COVID-related deaths and a further 18,213 cases – the highest daily total for fatalities since 5 May.
It is the second six-month high in consecutive days, after the country recorded 11,299 cases and 608 related deaths on Tuesday.
The announcement brings the government’s official coronavirus death toll to 56,533.
However, separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where COVID-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 72,000 deaths involving the virus across the country.
The total number of cases in the UK now stands at 1,557,007.
It comes as scientists warned that Boris Johnson’s plans to ease coronavirus restrictions over Christmas risked “throwing fuel on the COVID fire”.
For five days between 23 and 27 December, people across the UK will be able to mix within a Christmas bubble of up to three households – but only in a private home, a place of worship or outdoor public spaces.
Restrictions will remain for pubs, restaurants and the wider hospitality sector, which described the rules as likely to “inflict unnecessary pain and irreversible damage”.
The latest figures also follows a sobering statement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who announced a pay freeze for public sector workers outside the NHS in his one-year spending review.
It comes as the government said it had detailed plans to tackle the spreading of “lies” and misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.
Health minister Lord Bethell told peers that plans were in place to deal with both “misinformation based on confusion” and “disinformation based on malice”.