The UK has recorded a further 50,023 cases of coronavirus amid desperate warnings from medics that the NHS is on the brink of being overwhelmed.
A further 981 people with Covid-19 have also died in the country, in a huge rise that brings the death toll since the pandemic began to 72,548.
2,432,888 confirmed infections have now been recorded in the country but it is the recent surge that is concerning experts and health service staff, who could be choosing between who lives and who dies ‘within days’. That strain was being felt before the spike in new cases — which includes a record 53,135 on Tuesday, 41,385 on Monday and 272,551 in the seven days prior to today – translates into hospital admissions.
It comes as Covid deaths in England and Wales jumped by 8% in a week and as separate figures showed that more than 88,000 deaths involving the virus have now been confirmed in the UK.
Earlier, NHS England confirmed that a further 494 people who tested positive had died in hospitals in the country, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in the setting to 49,719.
Those patients were aged between 30 and 100. All except 20, aged between 36 and 92, had known underlying health conditions.
The deaths were between November 9 and December 29.
There were 23 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
It comes as Scotland had its second consecutive day of record-breaking case numbers.
Latest Scottish Government figures indicate 2,045 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in the last 24 hours, after a previous high of 1,895 cases on Tuesday.
Wednesday’s figures also reported 43 deaths, bringing the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 4,510.
Seven Covid-19 deaths had been recorded between Friday December 25 and Tuesday December 29, though the Scottish Government noted that register offices have been closed over the public holidays.
The latest statistics also show 124,831 people have now tested positive in Scotland.
Wales reported a further 2,281 cases, taking the total number since the pandemic began to 146,706.
Public Health Wales reported another 13 deaths, bringing the country’s tally to 3,429.
In Northern Ireland, six more deaths related to Covid-19 have been recorded.
The Department of Health added that a further 2,143 positive cases of the virus were also reported on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Oxford vaccine was given approval by UK regulators and is set to be rolled out to millions in the coming weeks.
But there were warnings that people exposed to Covid at Christmas are likely to be most infectious on New Year’s Eve, as millions of people were plunged into tier four in the latest changes in England.
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