Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Weiner
Boris Johnson has said it is "too early to say" when coronavirus restrictions will be lifted, when asked whether lockdown is likely to end in spring or summer.
The prime minister, on a visit to flood-hit Didsbury, in south Manchester, warned the new Covid-19 strain is "much more contagious" than older variants, refusing to give a timescale as to when restrictions might end.
Acknowledging the findings of a survey which found infections may have gone up at the beginning of the current lockdown, Mr Johnson urged people to "obey the current restrictions "in what is unquestionably going to be a tough few weeks ahead".
Asked whether it will be spring or summer, Mr Johnson said: "I think it's too early to say when we'll be able to lift some of the restrictions.
Boris Johnson is asked whether lockdown will end by summer or spring:
"We'll look then (February 15) at how we're doing but I think what we're seeing in the ONS data, in the React survey, we're seeing the contagiousness of the new variant that we saw arrive just before Christmas - there's no doubt it does spread very fast indeed.
"It's not more deadly but it is much more contagious and the numbers are very great."
The React study states that during the initial 10 days of the third Covid-19 lockdown in England, "prevalence of coronavirus was very high with no evidence of decline".
Researchers also found that the prevalence of Covid-19 across England increased by 50% between early December and the second week of January.
After testing more than 142,900 volunteers in England between January 6 and 15, they found that one in 63 people were infected.
The report, which researchers said does not yet reflect the impact of the national lockdown, also showed there were “worrying suggestions of a recent uptick in infections”.
It comes after the UK had its worst day for reported daily deaths, after a further 1,820 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, as of Wednesday.
It brings the total number of reported deaths linked to coronavirus in the UK to 93,290.
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 recent deaths, show there have now been 110,000 deaths involving coronavirus in the UK.
Figures released by the government also show that 1,110 Covid deaths have now been recorded as taking place on January 12, 2021 – the highest number of deaths to occur on a single day since the outbreak began.
Mr Johnson described the figures as "appalling", adding: "We think of the suffering of each one of those deaths represents to their families and friends."
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