Get our newsletter delivered directly to your inbox
I have already subscribed | Do not show this message again
Your email has been successfully registered.
With 78,610 cases in the last 24 hours, the U.K. reported a record number of new daily COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
The day before, the country reported 59,610 cases, surpassing the previous high of 68,053 cases on January 8.
The country is seeing a dramatic surge in infections ahead of the holiday as the omicron variant is expected to quickly become the dominant strain. Health officials warn there could be “staggering” numbers in the next few days.
Long queues have formed outside vaccination centers in numerous U.K. cities and towns as the government pits its booster program into overdrive in an attempt to get a third vaccine shot to as many people as possible.
According to government data, there were also 165 new Covid deaths in the U.K. on Wednesday.
Health experts repeatedly warn that the sheer number of infections could lead to mounting fatalities and an overwhelmed healthcare system even while deaths currently remain low. Initial reports suggest the omicron variant might not be any more severe than other Covid strains.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also confirmed the first publicly confirmed death globally from the new heavily mutated strain.
Johnson said Britain faces a “tidal wave” of omicron infections, and has announced that England would be speeding up its booster program to offer all adults a third dose of a vaccine by the end of the year.
A record 78,610 people have tested positive for Covid in the UK.
Nearly 25 million people have had a vaccine booster shot in the country of 67 million, and scientists are optimistic that booster doses will improve immunity against the new, highly transmissible variant.
Similarly, mask mandates in shops and instructions to work from home where possible, have been reintroduced in England throughout December.
That said, Johnson is experiencing backlash from his own political party, with many members unhappy at the new Covid restrictions as well as a series of scandals and embarrassments in recent weeks.
Ninety-six of his fellow Conservatives rejected a vote Tuesday evening in the House of Commons to require proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to enter nightclubs.
The government will similarly be forced to mull over if new Covid restrictions will be needed over the next few weeks and whether they will have enough cross-party support to approve the measures.
The executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, Dr. Mike Ryan, mentioned the sudden surge of cases in the U.K., saying Wednesday that the number is doubling every two days, or less than every two days.
“Which means if you have 100,000 cases today, it’s 200,000 cases [in] two days, 400,000 two days later, and then it’s 800,000 two days later. So in a week, let’s imagine in a week, eight days, just slightly more than [a] week of doubling time. The actual number of cases can increase eight or tenfold,” he said.