A further 179 coronavirus deaths have been recorded in the UK just hours after a Government minister ruled out a winter lockdown.

It comes after the country recorded 223 deaths on Tuesday - the highest number of fatalities in seven months.

Meanwhile new Covid cases shot up by 49,139 today - the second highest number of infections in a single day since mid July.

Despite rising deaths and infections, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has insisted there will not be another lockdown this winter.

The Government has warned that working from home and vaccine passports could be introduced if the NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed.

NHS Confederation boss Matthew Taylor warned that certain restrictions need to be reintroduced to prevent a winter crisis.

Covid deaths hit a seven-month high on Tuesday

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Mr Taylor said action needs to brought in now or it will derail efforts to tackle the backlog of five million patients waiting for treatment.

He said: "We are right on the edge – and it is the middle of October. It would require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months.

"The government ought to not just announce that we’re moving to Plan B, but it should be Plan B plus.

"We should do what’s in Plan B in terms of masks… working from home, but also we should try to achieve the kind of national mobilisation that we achieved in the first and second waves, where the public went out of their way to support and help the health service."

As he urged people to avoid risky behaviour, Mr Taylor said inaction would lead to a "really profound crisis" in the health and social care through the winter.

No10 said it was keeping a "very close eye" on rising case rates, but added the Prime Minister has "absolutely no plan to introduce Plan B" of its winter plan.

Mr Kwarteng insisted that another lockdown would not be imposed.

"No, I would rule that out," he told Sky News.

"Throughout this process, there've been people saying the lockdown was unnecessary, there have been other people saying we should continue the lockdown. We've really plotted a path between those two extremes."

But he said it was a "good thing" for people to wear masks in public places.

"I think people should do what they feel is the right thing to do," he said. "They've got to, I think, be respectful towards other people, they've got to keep themselves safe and the public as well."

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