More than 150,000 people in the UK have now died within 28 days of a positive Covid test since the pandemic began.
A further 313 deaths were reported in the government’s daily figures on Saturday, taking the total to 150,057.
The UK is the seventh country to pass 150,000 reported deaths, after the US, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico and Peru.
The prime minister said every death “is a profound loss to the friends and communities affected and my thoughts and condolences are with them”.
Boris Johnson added that coronavirus had taken a “terrible toll on our country” and “our way out of this pandemic is for everyone to get their booster or their first or second dose if they haven’t yet”.
Some 146,390 new cases have been recorded in the UK, with the more transmissible Omicron variant driving a surge in infections.
The number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test has also begun to rise, with the total of 1,271 in the past seven days up 38.3% on the previous week.
The impact of vaccinations means Covid hospital admissions and deaths are not rising as quickly as during previous waves.
However, hospitals remain under pressure due to rising admissions and Covid-related staff absences.
In Scotland the number of people in hospital with Covid has increased by more than 50% in the last week, according to new figures.
Camilla Claridge, from Oxfordshire, lost her grandmother to Covid in February last year and on the night of her funeral, she learned that her father was also dying with the virus.
“We buried nan and we came home from the funeral and then we were woken at one o’clock in the morning from a phone call to say that it was time to think about saying our goodbyes,” she said.
“It was horrendous. The ICU, you walk in and there’s just beds of people lined up with machines breathing for them…. I didn’t even recognise [my dad] because of all the tubes.”
“It’s hard to even imagine 150,000 people, families who have gone through what we’re going through,” she added.
Prof Andrew Hayward, who is a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the death toll was “absolutely tragic”.
“I think we could have done better,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme. “I think some of the deaths are even more tragic for the fact that many of them were avoidable if we had acted earlier in the first and second wave.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the news as “a dark milestone for our country”.
“Our thoughts are with all those who have lost someone, and we thank everyone supporting the vaccination effort,” he wrote on Twitter.
“We must ensure the public inquiry provides answers and that lessons are learned.”
The prime minister has promised to launch an independent public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic in the spring of this year.
Jo Goodman, co-founder of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign, said the “country needs answers as to why we have suffered one of the highest global death tolls”.
“This is ever more urgent as deaths from the Omicron variant continue to surge, with little apparently being done to address this. The public inquiry cannot begin its work soon enough,” she added.