The UK has set a new daily record of COVID-19 cases as the highly transmissible Omicron variant continues to sweep across the country.
It comes as the head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warned there would be a “staggering” amount of new cases over the next few days.
On Wednesday, a further 78,610 new cases were recorded, which is an increase of nearly 20,000 on Tuesday, and is around 10,000 more than the previous highest daily total, which came in January during the second wave of the pandemic.
Hospital admissions have also risen by 10.4% up until Saturday, while deaths are down 5%on the previous week, with a further 165 recorded on Wednesday.
Early on Wednesday, Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK HSA, told a parliamentary committee that the Omicron variant represents “probably the most significant threat” since the start of the pandemic early last year.
Experts believe that while early indications show the severity of Omicron may be less severe, the sheer number of cases could still overwhelm the country’s health system, which Dr Harries warned would potentially be in “serious peril”.
Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, told a Downing Street press conference that he expected even higher numbers over the coming weeks.
The government is said to be relying on its booster program to prevent lockdowns, with 650,000 jabs given on Tuesday.
A recent ABC report says the Omicron variant has torn through Britain since the first case was identified at the end of November, and is on track to be the dominant variant in the country by the end of this week.