Professor Chris Whitty has warned that some Covid-19 restrictions may have to be brought back into place next winter to help control the virus.

England’s Chief Medical Officer was speaking during the Downing Street press conference alongside the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance.

The press conference came as new figures from the Office of National Statistics released figures suggesting an estimated one in 50 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between Christmas and New Year.

Professor Whitty said: “If we did not do the things all of us must now do, if people don’t take the ‘stay at home’ message seriously the risk at this point in time, in the middle of winter, with this new variant is extraordinarily high.

“What is going to happen over time is the risk level is gradually going to decrease, it’s not going to be really bad and then suddenly it stops.

“We’re going to essentially going to have the risk walking down a path, things will be able to be lifted by degrees, possibly at different rates in different parts in the country.”

He added: “We’ll then get over time to a point where people say this level of risk is something society is prepared to tolerate and lift right down to almost no restrictions at all.

“We might have to bring in a few in next winter for example, that’s possible, because winter will benefit the virus.”

His warning comes as hospital admissions of people with Covid-19 have reached another record high, according to NHS England figures.

A total of 3,351 admissions in England were reported for January 3, passing the previous record of 3,145 on January 2.

During the first wave of the virus, admissions peaked at 3,099 on April 1 2020.

The number comprises all patients admitted in the previous 24 hours who were known to have Covid-19, plus any patients diagnosed in hospital with Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours.