UK's daily Covid cases hit pandemic high of 183,037

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UK’s daily Covid cases hit pandemic high of 183,037 and hospital admissions breach crucial ‘lockdown threshold’ in London… as Boris breaks cover after 10 days to say ‘everybody should enjoy New Year’ and notes Omicron is ‘obviously milder’

UK Health Security Agency bosses logged 183,037 positive tests, up by almost three-quarters on last week’s tally. 

The count — which eclipses yesterday’s previous record by more than 45,000 — is skewed upwards because it includes five days’ worth of backlogged data from Northern Ireland, which didn’t feed officials its numbers over the Christmas break.

Statistics for England-only — which were kept up-to-date through the festive period — were also their highest on record, jumping by 45 per cent in a week. This is despite a similar number of tests being carried out.

Despite the explosion in cases, Boris Johnson today gave the green light for people to celebrate New Year’s Eve but urged millions of revellers to be ‘cautious and sensible’. The Prime Minister insisted ‘everybody should enjoy’ the last social hurrah of the year, despite the spread of Omicron

He said the strain ‘continues to cause real problems’ with hospitalisations rising but the data shows it is ‘obviously milder than the Delta variant’. 

Separate NHS figures today showed daily Covid hospitalisations in London have now breached the key 400-a-day threshold, which Government advisers said may trigger nationwide restrictions.

England itself saw a 65 per cent weekly jump in admissions, with more than 10,000 beds now occupied by virus-infected patients for the first time since March.

But NHS bosses have called for caution over interpretations of increasing hospital numbers, with Omicron known to cause a milder disease, virus-infected patients spending less time on wards, and ‘incidental’ admissions on the rise due to extremely high prevalence of Covid in the community.  

Mr Johnson argued the success of England’s booster roll-out was behind his decision to hold off on implementing any tougher restrictions, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all having imposed new rules on socialising.

The PM today repeated his plea to the nation to get boosted as he warned up to 90 per cent of Covid patients in intensive care units across the country had not received the top-up dose.

Mr Johnson has faced criticism after failing to make a public appearance in recent days despite the coronavirus crisis. He was grilled on the subject this morning as he was asked where he had been ‘for the last 10 days’. A flustered PM replied: ‘I have been in this country.’

The comments came as hospitality chiefs suggested as many as 100,000 Scottish and Welsh revellers could cross into England to enjoy ‘normal’ New Year’s Eve celebrations without restrictions.

UKHSA data suggests that Omicron now makes up 90 per cent of all cases in every region of England

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