The record number, though due in part to a backlog from the holidays, was a "reflection of a real increase" in the country, an expert at Public Health England said.
The UK added a record more than 50,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, as hospital admissions exceeded the country's peak in Spring.
Although some of the 53,135 cases recorded were due to a backlog from the holidays, the figures were "largely a reflection of a real increase," said Dr Susan Hopkins, a senior medical advisor for Public Health England.
Dr Hopkins said it was critical to reduce contacts to bring down infections, despite it being difficult at the end of the year.
The worrying infection figures come as health minister Matt Hancock is expected to tighten restrictions in some areas of the country.
"Our NHS is facing unprecedented pressures due to coronavirus," Hancock tweeted. "We must suppress this virus to protect our NHS & save lives until the vaccine can keep us safe. Thank you to everyone for following the rules in these difficult times."
The UK is grappling with a new variant of coronavirus that experts say transmits more easily.
This mutated version of the virus, officials said, forced the UK to backtrack on relaxing restrictions over the holidays. It has already been found in several European countries and experts say it is likely already in most EU countries.
Across Europe, many countries have imposed restrictions. Germany was locked down over the holidays while Austria announced its third lockdown on December 26th.
Curfew to be moved up in some French regions
France, meanwhile, could issue a curfew from 6:00pm to 6:00am in the most impacted regions. The current curfew starts at 8pm.
Health minister Olivier Véran told France 2 that for the past three weeks France has hit a plateau of around 15,000 daily infections but in four regions, they were proposing a stricter curfew instead of regional lockdowns.
It comes as the country's scientific council said that an "uncontrolled rebound" of cases was "probable" after the holidays.
The French government had allowed people to travel over the holidays and recommended no more than six adults gather during the holiday season.
Italy records 659 additional deaths ahead of full lockdown
Italy added 659 deaths to its official coronavirus toll ahead of another few days of full lockdown for the New Year’s holiday.
Another 11,212 people tested positive, according to the health ministry.
Italy has been under a modified nationwide lockdown since before Christmas in a bid to stave off a new surge in infections as a result of holiday gatherings. Shops were having a few days of reprieve to reopen for business but will close again by the end of the week.
Italy has Europe’s highest official death toll at 73,029 and more than 2 million confirmed infections.