Two regions in England have recorded their highest number of weekly COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began, figures have revealed.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday showed that every region in the country reported an increase in the number of weekly coronavirus deaths.
Two regions - the South East and East of England - had their highest weekly death tolls since the beginning of the pandemic.
COVID-19 deaths in regions of England in the week ending 22 January
The South East, with 1,734 deaths in the week ending 22 January, and the East, with 1,216, had their highest totals since the pandemic began, while the 1,400 deaths in London was the capital’s biggest weekly tally since the week ending 24 April last year.
London also had the highest proportion of deaths in England involving COVID-19, at 57.9%.
Across England and Wales, there were 8,422 deaths registered in the week ending 22 January that mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate, the ONS said.
This was the second highest weekly number since the pandemic began, and a 16% increase from the 7,245 deaths in the previous week ending 15 January.
A total of 117,378 deaths had occurred in the UK by 22 January where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.
Watch: ONS says UK COVID deaths pass 100,000 mark
Almost half (45.1%) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to 22 January mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate – the highest proportion recorded during the pandemic.
The ONS said there had been 14 consecutive days last month, from 7 to 20 January, when the daily death toll was above 1,000.
During the first wave of the pandemic in April 2020, there were 23 consecutive days when the death toll was above that figure.
Despite the rising death toll, government figures indicate that infections are decreasing.
It said 166,126 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the last week, a 30% fall of 70,038 cases from the previous seven-day period.
On Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson said there were signs that lockdown measures are working.
He said: “We are starting to see some signs of a flattening and maybe even a falling off of infection rates and hospitalisations.
“But don’t forget that they are still at a very high level by comparison with most points in the last 12 months, a really very high level.
“So the risk is if you take your foot off the throat of the beast, as it were, and you allow things to get out of control again then you could, alas, see the disease spreading again fast before we have got enough vaccines into people’s arms.”
On Tuesday, operations got underway for the door-to-door delivery of thousands of coronavirus testing kits to help identify cases of the South African variant.
The goal is to swab 80,000 people in an attempt to half the spread of the new strain.
Eleven cases of the variant have been identified over the last five or six days in people who have no links to travel – suggesting it may be spreading in communities.
Watch: What you can and can't do during England's lockdown