England has reported the highest number of daily Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 117,093 new infections.
The total breaks the previous record of 113,628 set on Christmas Day, and hospital admissions have also seen a rise.
There were 9,546 people in hospital with the disease in England as of 28 December – up 38% from the previous week and the highest total since the beginning of March.
Across the UK, government figures show there were a record 129,471 lab-confirmed cases, although the data is incomplete due to the Christmas holidays with no figures for Scotland or Northern ireland.
No new restrictions for England
Despite the record high figures, the UK government has confirmed that no new Covid-19 restrictions will be put in place in England before the new year.
The decision is at odds with the rest of the UK, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all imposing stricter post-Christmas controls, including nightclub closures and limits on social mixing.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said that while there are early signs that the new Omicron variant is leading to fewer hospital admissions than previous waves, ministers are ready to act if necessary.
He told the BBC: “There is early encouragement from what we know in South Africa that you have fewer hospitalisations and that the number of days that they stay in hospital if they do go into hospital is also lower than in previous variants.
“At the moment we don’t think that the evidence supports any more interventions beyond what we have done.
“But obviously we have got to keep it under very close review, because if it is the case that we started to see a big increase in hospitalisations then we would need to act further.”
Booster drive ramped up
The NHS is now mounting a fresh drive to get more people to have their Covid-19 booster jab to protect against the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The NHS vaccination programme is sending around 650,000 text messages and 50,000 letters to people who have not yet received their top-up dose, encouraging them to roll up their sleeve and have a “jabby new year”.
NHS staff administered 244,078 vaccinations on Monday (27 December), including 209,626 boosters, the second-highest tally for a bank holiday.
A total of 51 million people in the UK have now had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the latest Government figures, while more than 32 million have received a third jab.
Meanwhile NHS leaders are warning that currently the greatest pressure on the health service is coming from Covid-related staff absences, which are leaving clinical teams severely depleted, rather than from Covid hospitalisations.
Some scientists and business leaders have suggested ministers should consider reducing the self-isolation time for people who test positive further to allow them to get back to work sooner and prevent essential services from collapsing.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has already reduced the isolation period from 10 to seven days in England, while in the United States it has been cut from 10 days to five for people who are asymptomatic.
However, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have yet to make any changes.
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