The UK reported 41,385 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, a daily record, as a rapidly spreading variant of the novel coronavirus increases infection rates and the Christmas weekend impacted the reporting of some new cases.
The new cases reported on Monday marked the first time the number of new cases reported in a single day in the UK has risen above 40,000.
There had also been 357 new deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, the UK government’s coronavirus statistics portal said.
"This very high level of infection is of growing concern at a time when our hospitals are at their most vulnerable," said Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England.
British prime minister Boris Johnson and his scientific advisers have said a variant of Covid-19, which could be up to 70 per cent more transmissible, was spreading rapidly in Britain, although it is not thought to be more deadly or to cause more serious illness.
London and southeast England are currently subject to tight social mixing restrictions, while plans to ease coronavirus curbs over Christmas across the nation were dramatically scaled back or scrapped altogether.
Mr Johnson last week said the spread of the new variant meant there would be difficult times ahead, and ministers have said it may be necessary to do more.
The latest rise in positive cases was partially driven by Northern Ireland reporting 1,634 new cases, having not reported any cases on Sunday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday period.
It was unclear whether a rise in cases in England by nearly 11,000 was due to similar Christmas fluctuations in relation to testing figures. Data on numbers of people being tested there has not been published since Wednesday.
Britain has increased testing capacity substantially since the first wave of Covid-19 in the spring, from about 100,000 daily tests at the end of May to 500,000 tests on December 23rd, the last date on which data on the number of tests conducted was published. – Reuters/PA