“This very high level of infection is of growing concern at a time when our hospitals are at their most vulnerable,” said the Medical Director at Public Health England, Yvonne Doyle.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his scientific advisers have said a variant of the coronavirus, which could be up to 70 per cent more transmissible, was spreading rapidly in Britain, although it is not thought to be more deadly or to cause more serious illness.
That prompted tight social mixing restrictions measures for London and southeast England, while plans to ease curbs over Christmas across the nation were dramatically scaled back or scrapped altogether.
Mr Johnson last week said the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus meant there would be difficult times ahead, and ministers have said it may be necessary to do more.
The rise in positive cases was also partially driven by Northern Ireland reporting 1,634 new cases, having not reported any cases on Sunday or on Friday due to the Christmas holiday period.
It was unclear whether a rise of cases in England by nearly 11,000 was partially a result of fluctuations in testing figures over the holiday weekend, as data on numbers of people being tested has not been published since Wednesday.
Britain has increased testing capacity substantially since the first wave of COVID-19 in the spring, from around 100,000 daily tests at the end of May to 500,000 tests on 23 December, the last date data was published on the number of tests conducted.
It comes as the European Union’s campaign to vaccinate Europeans against COVID-19 has got off to an uneven start, in what will be a marathon effort to administer shots to enough of the bloc’s 450 million people to defeat the viral pandemic.
In one mishap, eight workers at a care home in Stralsund on the north German coast were injected with five times the recommended dose of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. Four were hospitalised.
“I deeply regret the incident. This individual case is due to individual errors. I hope that all those affected do not experience any serious side effects,” district chief Stefan Kerth said on Monday.
In southern Germany, officials had to send back about 1,000 doses after finding they had been transported in cool boxes typically used for picnics or camping trips that failed to keep the vaccine cold enough.
The EU vaccination drive kicked off over the weekend, with health workers and residents of care homes across the bloc among the first to get the shots from Pfizer, which must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures.
In Italy, meanwhile, some politicians complained that Germany - the EU’s largest member state and home to BioNTech - may be getting more than its fair share of shots.
The EU is due to receive its first 12.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by New Year’s Day, with distribution of 200 million doses across its 27 member countries to be completed by next September.
The vaccine course requires two doses.
A spokesman for Pfizer declined to comment on specific schedules or whether the timeline indicated by the Commission represented a delay.
“Our timelines are aspirational and can shift based on capacity and manufacturing timelines,” he said.
Talks are underway to agree on the delivery of an optional further 100 million doses under the contract sealed with the two companies, the EU said.