UK records 479 deaths as end of lockdown nears

However, separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate have shown that there have been more than 73,000 fatalities involving the virus in the UK.

A further 479 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the UK’s total coronavirus fatalities to 58,030, official figures have shown.

The government added that there had been a further 15,871 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, as of 9am on Saturday.

The figures came as Boris Johnson appointed a minister to take charge of the coronavirus vaccine rollout on Saturday amid reports that a jab could be approved by regulators within days.

Downing Street said Nadhim Zahawi, currently a business minister, had been made a health minister responsible for the deployment of approved vaccines.

Reports by the Guardian and the Financial Times have suggested that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could be given the green light by regulators next week, with the first jabs beginning as soon as 7 December.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said on Saturday morning that he expected the Pfizer vaccine to reach regulatory approval by “early to mid December”.

Meanwhile, the UK government has been attempting to quell a backbench Tory rebellion over the new tier system of restrictions which will replace the national lockdown next week.

In a warning to MPs, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said that every hospital in England could be overwhelmed with coronavirus cases if the new system is not introduced.

Mr Gove urged MPs to “take responsibility for difficult decisions” to curb the spread of Covid-19 amid anger from some Conservatives over the scale of the new rules.

In total, 99 per cent of England will enter Tier 2 or 3, with tight restrictions on bars and restaurants and a ban on households mixing indoors from Wednesday.

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