The UK has recorded a new daily record of coronavirus cases, after reporting 35,928 new infections and 326 deaths in the last 24 hours.
The previous record was set on Thursday, but 11,000 of the 35,383 new cases that day were blamed on a backlog in Wales – and experts have warned that the ‘sharp and sudden’ rise is of ‘serious concern’.
It comes as countries across Europe closed their border to the UK, with concerns mounting about a ‘mutant’ strain of Covid-19 thought to be more contagious being identified. Fears about the new strain led to London and parts of the south and south east of England being plunged into tier and Christmas plans being cancelled in a bombshell announcement by the Prime Minister yesterday.
The latest figures bringing the UK total death toll to 67,401 and the number of confirmed cases since the pandemic began to 2,040,147. But separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies combined with additional data on deaths in recent days show there have now been 83,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
Yesterday’s total of 27,052 was high for a case total at the weekend, when figures tend to be lower because of a lag in reporting. But today’s total is almost 9,000 more than even that.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said: ‘This sharp and sudden increase is of serious concern. Most of the new cases reported today are concentrated in London and the South East, although it is too early to tell if this is linked to the new variant.
‘What we do know is that the way to control this virus is the same, whatever the variant. It simply will not spread if we avoid close contact with others. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance from others, and reduce your social contacts.
‘By working together we have tackled this virus before. By holding the line over the next few weeks, it is possible we can do so again, as we continue to roll out the vaccine to the most vulnerable.’
Of the 32,155 new positive cases reported for England on Sunday, the overwhelming majority (95%) were tests conducted in the last four days.
Earlier today, NHS England said 266 people who tested positive for coronavirus had died in hospitals in the country, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in the setting to 46,388.
Patients were aged between 42 and 101. All except seven, aged between 53 and 90, had known underlying health conditions.
The deaths were between November 8 and December 19, it said.
13 other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
Ahead of an emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday, Northern Ireland’s Department of Health confirmed another 13 people with Covid-19 had died, bringing the death toll there to 1,196.
A further 505 new cases of the virus were also reported in the region.
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