COVID: UK reports highest number of daily cases since start of pandemic

Another 78,610 COVID cases have been reported in the UK, the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic.

A further 4,671 cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed – bringing the total to 10,017.

The previous highest number of cases was on 8 January 2021, when 68,053 were reported.

Live COVID updates as Boris Johnson to hold 5pm Downing Street news conference

This time last week, 8 December, 51,342 coronavirus cases were reported.

The record number of lab-confirmed cases should “worry us all”, the chief executive of NHS England has said.

Asked about the news, Amanda Pritchard told the Commons Public Accounts Committee: “That is a stark reminder of why the current national mission to get COVID vaccination is the right one.”

She added: “I think that figure should worry all of us and that’s why the booster programme is so important.”

The government has reported a further 165 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. This time last week, 161 deaths were recorded.

In the latest 24-hour period, 774 patients have been admitted to hospitals in the UK – making up a total of 7,673, including 896 on ventilators.

This is down from this time last week when 874 people were admitted to hospitals across the UK.

Meanwhile, yesterday 34,082 people received their first dose of a vaccine, while 37,888 were given a second. This means 46,842,497 people have received two jabs so far, equivalent to 81.5% of the population.

And 24,732,162 people have now been given a booster, or third dose – equivalent to 43% of the population.

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The figures come one week after Boris Johnson toughened COVID-19 rules in England amid concerns over the increasing spread of the Omicron variant.

From today, the use of coronavirus health certificates to demonstrate vaccination or a negative test for entry into large venues in England has become mandatory – despite a rebellion from Conservative MPs last night as it was voted on in the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister will lead a Downing Street news conference today, in which he will give an update on the booster rollout amid the spread of the Omicron variant – you can follow it live here.

He will be joined by England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and medical director of primary care for NHS England, Dr Nikki Kanani.

He is not expected to announce any further COVID-19 restrictions however, during a visit to Gordon Hospital today the health secretary refused to rule out any further restrictions in the future.

Sajid Javid, when asked if more guidance would be issued, said: “We keep the whole situation under review. It is fast-moving, I think people understand that.

“The case numbers are still sadly rising rapidly, we have been very open about how quickly this new variant spreads, we have seen it double in terms of infections every two to three days across the country.

“In London, now, for example, it is our understanding that it is 60% of all cases already.”

Omicron has overtaken Delta as the dominant coronavirus variant in London.

The figures, released by the UK Health Security Agency, reveal Omicron hotspots across England, with the East, South East and North West also having high rates.

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The data also shows five people are in hospital suspected of being infected with the Omicron strain, in addition to the 10 confirmed cases already reported by the UKHSA.

But it comes after the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, Dr Jenny Harries, told MPs that the new variant was “probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic“.

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