The UK has seen its highest daily jump in coronavirus cases, with a further 36,804 infections reported on Tuesday.
The government also announced that there had been another 691 Covid-19 deaths, bringing the total death toll to 68,307.
The new faster-spreading coronavirus variant is already present in “many different places” across England, with cases identified in the South West, Midlands, North of England and Scotland, experts have warned.
Jeffrey Barrett, lead statistical geneticist at the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, said the variant was “certaintly not isolated in one place” and had been found in areas beyond those in Tier 4 level restrictions.
“They’re relatively small numbers but I think it is important to be aware that it is certainly not the case that this is just completely geographically constrained to what is the current Tier 4 area,” Dr Barrett told a Science Media Centre briefing on Tuesday.
It came as the scientist behind the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine said he was confident that his candidate would still work against the new variant.
Professor Ugur Sahin, chief executive of BioNTech, said the likelihood of the vaccine still working was “relatively high” and added that it could be adjusted in about six weeks if necessary.