The NHS is on a 'war footing' as the number of people in hospital with Covid in the UK rises to nearly 12,000, reports Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen
The UK has surpassed its record number of daily reported Covid cases for a third day in a row, with a further 189,213 confirmed.
The figure topped 100,000 for the first time on December 22 and has stayed above that mark ever since - rising beyond 180,000 on Wednesday due to delays in reporting over Christmas.
In Thursday's data update, all four nations reported the highest ever number of daily confirmed coronavirus cases.
The total includes reported figures for Wales covering a two-day period.
The government said a further 332 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 - the highest daily increase since March.
The figure includes a backlog of hospital deaths reported by NHS England covering the period of December 24-29.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 174,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
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England reported 146,604 cases, an increase on its previous record rise of 138,287 on Wednesday. A further 317 deaths have also been confirmed.
Daily Covid cases reported on Thursday in Scotland reached their highest on record at 16,857.
Addressing the rise, the country’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: "Yet another record tally of reported cases in today – reflecting fact that Omicron is very, very infectious.
"Likelihood of getting it just now if you mix with others is high. Though remember – being boosted gives you significant protection against becoming v ill with it."
The first minister also pointed to "the steep rise in hospital occupancy" - there were 810 people in hospital on Wednesday with recently confirmed Covid-19, 34 in intensive care.
Ms Sturgeon stressed: "Even if there is a lower percentage hospitalised through Omicron, sheer volume will still put acute pressure on NHS – and result in serious illness for many."
Nine deaths from the virus were recorded north of the border in the past 24 hours, taking the total death toll (of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days) to 9,845.
Daily reported cases in Wales soared to 21,051 on Thursday - surpassing the country's previous highest figure of 12,378.
Public Health Wales did stress that the new cases are for a 48-hour reporting period up to 9am on 29 December, and not a 24-hour period as usual.
Three new deaths were recorded.
Northern Ireland reported 4,701 new confirmed Covid cases on Thursday - a record figure.
Three new deaths were also reported by the Department of Health.