A further 15,871 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK today, marking a 20 per cent drop on the number of cases reported last Saturday.
Today's case total shaves a fifth off the 19,875 positive tests reported this time last week in a sure-fire sign England's second nation-wide lockdown slowed the country's spiraling infection rate.
Today's death toll is the highest Saturday figure seen since May 2 when 584 Britons lost their lives to the virus.
However it is the second-lowest death toll figure seen this week - after a massive 696 deaths were reported on Wednesday and 608 on Tuesday.
Those who died today likely contracted the virus weeks ago, potentially before the lockdown rules came into effect.
Today's figures come amid a brewing Tory rebellion as furious backbenchers accuse the Government of risking catastrophic damage to the economy with its controversial system for life post-national lockdown.Central London descended into anarchy today as riot police broke up anti-lockdown rallies led by Piers Corbyn and arrested mask-less demonstrators; Stratford-on-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi - who has criticised Boris Johnson's tiered lockdown system - has been put in charge of the UK's vaccine rollout;The health expert behind Sweden's no-lockdown Covid-19 strategy appears to have been pushed off the airwaves amid a 'split' within the government as the country's number of coronavirus deaths continues to rise; A Tory rebellion appears to be brewing as furious backbenchers accuse the Government of risking catastrophic damage to the economy with its controversial system for life post-national lockdown.
A further 15,871 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK today, marking a 20 per cent drop on the number of cases reported last Saturday
Official figures have also revealed a further 479 coronavirus deaths - a 40 per cent rise on the 341 figure seen last Saturday
Scotland has confirmed a further 788 Covid-19 cases and 44 deaths. Wales has seen 1,445 new positive diagnoses and 29 new deaths.
A further 315 individuals have tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland in the past 24 hours. The country has reported a further nine deaths.
Royal Stoke University Hospital has declared a major incident after there was a rise in coronavirus patient admissions leaving only seven ventilators free in their critical care unit.
The hospital increased its alert level as 38 of its 322 Covid patients are on machines and struck a deal with NHS trusts n Birmingham, Coventry and Warwickshire to transfer patients.
One furious MP - who asked not to be named - predicted that as many as 70 MPs would rebel against the new tiered measures in a Commons showdown next week, which could see Boris Johnson relying on support from Labour to get the new restrictions approved.
Their anger has been fuelled by reports that it was 'unrealistic' to expect areas under the toughest Covid curbs – Tiers 2 and 3 – to move down to Tier 1 before spring, in a plan dubbed a 'virtual lockdown'.
But Michael Gove has today issued a stark warning to any MP's planning on rebelling.
The Cabinet Office minister urged MPs to 'take responsibility for difficult decisions' to curb the spread of Covid-19, amid anger from some Conservatives that much of England will face stringent restrictions
Writing in The Times today, Mr Gove said the decision to impose the restrictions was necessary to 'pull the handbrake' and avoid the 'disaster' of NHS hospitals – and private sector and newly-built Nightingale hospitals – becoming filled to capacity with only Covid patients and emergency cases.
'Keeping our hospitals open, available and effective was not just crucial to dealing with Covid-19. It was imperative for the health of the whole nation,' the pro-shutdown Tory minister argued.
'But the only way to ensure we can take care of cancer patients, administer radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and help stroke victims and treat heart attacks is by protecting the NHS,' he said, adding this could only be done by reducing the spread of the virus and thus limiting the number of Covid patients in hospitals.
Michael Gove today warned up to 100 potential Tory rebels to put Britain's interests first after officials admitted last night that almost the entire nation will be banned from socialising indoors until Easter
Mr Gove also claimed that reducing infections would save the UK economy, which has been decimated by shutdown restrictions that prevent the trade of the hospitality industry and retail, tourism and air travel.
As official forecasts warn that the national debt could soar to £2.8trillion by 2025, he warned: 'Think for a moment what would happen to our economy if we allowed infections to reach such a level that our NHS was overwhelmed.'
But his argument was attacked by former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption today, who blasted the Government's use of 'extremely selective and tendentious' data to justify shutdowns.
Lord Sumption, last year's BBC Reith Lecturer, also told Radio 4's Today programme that the Tiering system was 'unenforceable' and suggested that the public was growing increasingly unwilling to comply.
Almost the entire nation is set to be banned from socialising indoors until Easter, officials admitted last night. The senior sources said it was 'unrealistic' to expect areas under the toughest curbs – Tiers 2 and 3 – to move down to Tier 1 before spring
Under a 'virtual lockdown' revealed on Thursday, 99 per cent of the population was put in the top two tiers, which ban household gatherings and cripple the hospitality trade
Boris Johnson may now have to rely on Labour votes to win backing for his toughened-up tier system. The disaffected MPs want regular votes on which tiers areas are put in. (Above, the PM at Porton Down science park near Salisbury on Friday)
Tory backbenchers accused the Government of risking catastrophic damage to the economy. One predicted that more than 50 Conservative MPs would rebel in a Commons showdown next week
Have an unhappy Christmas: Government scientists advise no singing, dancing or BOARD GAMES (and isolate for two weeks before and after five-day 'bubble break')
Tis not the season to be jolly... families were last night advised by Government scientists to steer clear of singing, dancing and even board games when they meet up this Christmas.
In bleak midwinter news for those who like to linger over their turkey and trimmings, Britons have also been recommended not to spend too long enjoying their festive dinner.
People should consider using place names to avoid contamination at the dinner table – and be on their guard when it comes to the washing up, says the scientific advisory committee Sage.
And they should consider self-isolating for two weeks both before and after the five-day 'Christmas bubble' break to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
In a raft of documents yesterday, the scientists warned that any relaxation of restrictions over the festive period could result in a 'large rise' in transmission rates which could ultimately see prevalence of the virus 'easily double'.
The advice was revealed yesterday in documents that were discussed at meetings held between October 29 and earlier this week.
One document, titled Key Evidence and Advice on Celebrations and Observances during Covid-19, said: 'Avoid repeated and extended overnight stays.
'If possible and circumstances allow, self-quarantine for two weeks before and after visit.' It added that maintaining existing 'bubbles' rather than creating new ones could also help.
Responding to Mr Gove's article, Lord Sumption told Radio 4's Today programme: 'There is, in this country, a particular problem... which is the problem about the information that the Government puts out.
'Some of the statistics used to justify the lockdown have been extremely selective and tendentious.
The most serious case recently, which was used to justify the current lockdown, resulted in criticism from the UK's Statistics Authority.'
He added: 'The fact is that the public has become increasingly unwilling to comply for reasons that to me are sound. Of course this is not enforceable. None of these things are enforceable, none of them are, without a strong measure of public willingness to comply.'
He added that 'the fact that the Government cannot send policemen into every one to police it doesn't seem to me to justify locking down ever large numbers of people' who are 'going to suffer no serious ill effects and certainly are not going to die'.
Lord Sumption also pointed out that winter hospitalisations for respiratory diseases always rise and 'in a bad year the NHS habitually cannot cope'.
'But we have never previously regarded that as a reason for making it illegal for people to take risks with their health,' he told the programme.
'It is perfectly true that the example of other countries has given political cover to the Government to take steps that it wouldn't otherwise have taken.'
Meanwhile, fresh data also revealed the disease's 'R' reproduction rate may have dipped below the crucial number of one - meaning the outbreak is shrinking rather than growing.
Senior MPs seized on the news to urge Mr Johnson to halt his proposals for plunging 99 per cent of England into the toughest two lockdown tiers when the current blanket squeeze ends on December 2.
To quell the Tory rebellion, ministers have floated the idea of some rural areas being 'decoupled' from nearby virus hotspots which have dragged them into tougher tiers, according to the Telegraph.
Health Secretary Secretary Matt Hancock is among ministers said to have held talks with backbenchers to offer hope that their constituencies will see an easing of lockdown measures in December.
'My fear is the tiers are going to become like a purgatory with no escape,' said William Wragg, who is chairman of the Commons public administration committee.
'It is vital there is a clear path for areas to emerge from tighter tiered restrictions. We cannot have families, communities and businesses left in limbo.'
Mr Johnson acknowledged people in England felt 'frustrated', particularly in areas with low infection rates that now face tough restrictions. But he refused to adopt a more localised system, saying it was 'too difficult to divide the country up into loads and loads of very complicated sub-divisions'.
MPs will vote on Tuesday on the new system of tiers, which the Government has said it expects to remain in place until the end of March. Once introduced, it will be for ministers to decide whether areas move between the different tiers.
How around 17MILLION people living in parts of England where Covid outbreaks have been shrinking for two weeks or more will STILL be slapped with Tier 2 or 3 rules next week
Around 17million people living in parts of England that have seen their coronavirus outbreaks shrink for at least two weeks in a row will be plunged into the toughest tiers next week when the country's lockdown finally ends, MailOnline's analysis has revealed.
As many as a third of England's authorities - 51 out of 149 - saw coronavirus infections drop in the seven-day spells ending November 15 and November 22 according to Public Health England's weekly surveillance report.
They include all 10 boroughs in Greater Manchester - home to 2.8million alone - and authorities subject to tough restrictions for months, such as Blackburn with Darwen, Gateshead and Lancashire - which are all earmarked for Tier Three.
Boris Johnson has revealed 99 per cent of England will live under toughened restrictions come December 2 - said Tiers would be determined based on the rate of fall in infections, alongside pressure on the NHS, the total number of cases and the rate of infection in the over 60s who are more at risk from the virus.
But officials have refused to reveal the exact criteria needed for areas facing lockdown in all-but-name to escape the tougher curbs, meaning the fate of millions is left in the hands of the secretive Joint Biosecurity Centre, which has previously been slammed as being 'far too opaque'.
Only Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly – 1 per cent of the population – will have the lightest restrictions when the lockdown lifts next week. Everyone else is in Tiers 2 and 3.
The Prime Minister yesterday raised the prospect that some parts of the country could have restrictions eased within weeks as he sought to head off the Tory revolt.
Sir David Amess last night said he expects 'more than 50' fellow Tory MPs will vote against the Government. But scientific advisers have warned that Tier One rules are not strict enough.
Officials expect some areas to shift between Tiers 2 and 3, although this is unlikely before Christmas.
However, a senior source yesterday said it would be 'surprising' if areas in Tier Two saw a big enough fall in rates to move down to Tier One until there is a vaccine.
Government officials have warned that December and January will be the 'most difficult' in the fight against the virus. Covid-19 spreads more easily in winter – at a time when the NHS will also be facing huge pressures and flu season.
'All of those things conspire against being able to relax tiers,' a source said. Former minister Damian Green claimed it was 'irrational' to put whole counties under the harshest restrictions when some towns were barely hit.
He added: 'If people think the restrictions are arbitrary or should not be applied to their area, they are more likely to disobey the rules.'
Former Cabinet minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith told MailOnline Mr Johnson should delay changing tier levels for another two weeks, so the full impact of the national lockdown is clear.
He said: 'Just what the hell are the government doing? I can't believe they haven't waited to see what the figures were doing, and what lockdown was doing.
'The whole thing is on a downward trajectory. This week is the first week in which you see the figures for the lockdown.
'My big question is why are we rushing to take this decision now? Why don't they wait to see what the effect of the lockdown has been?
'They should postpone the final decision on these tiers until they see where we are likely to be... That would allow them to say some of these areas don't need to go into Tier 3 and some of them can go into Tier 1.'
But the PM showed no sign of bowing to the brewing mutiny earlier, insisting while he 'totally understood' why people in low-infection areas were upset about being put under harder restrictions, it was not possible to treat neighbouring places differently.
Speaking on a visit to the Porton Down laboratory site in Wiltshire, Johnson held out the prospect that some areas could see their status downgraded at a review on December 16 – but suggested that was unlikely to mean anyone else going into Tier 1.
Mr Johnson said: 'I know it is frustrating for people when they are in a high-tier area when there is very little incidence in their village or their area. I totally understand why people feel frustrated.' He added: 'There really is the prospect of areas being able... to move down the tiering scale.'