The UK has surpassed its record number of daily reported coronavirus cases for a fourth day in a row, with a further 189,846 confirmed. The figure topped 100,000 for the first time on December 22 and has stayed above that mark ever since. In Thursday's data update, which included figures for Wales covering a two-day period, all four nations reported the highest ever number of daily Covid cases, with 189,213 confirmed.
On Friday, the government said a further 203 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total to 148,624 since the start of the pandemic.
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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.
There are now 246,780 confirmed Omicron cases across the UK, after an additional 17,114 cases were reported on Friday, the UK Health Security Agency confirmed.
The latest data comes as separate figures indicate that a record number of people in the UK had Covid-19 in the week before Christmas.
Some 2.3 million people had coronavirus in the week ending December 23, the highest number since comparable figures began in autumn 2020, the Office for National Statistics said.
As cases soar, the government has been warned it must be ready to apply restrictions "at pace" amid fears the NHS could be overwhelmed by the rapid spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant. The health service is setting up "surge hubs" at hospitals across England to cope with rising patient numbers.
There are fears that unrestricted social mixing for New Year's Eve celebrations across England could drive cases up further still.
England reported 160,276 new cases of Covid on Friday and a further 178 deaths.
Some 11,962 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Scotland on Friday, as well as another 13 deaths.
Wales reported 11 deaths from Covid on Friday and a further 10,393 new cases.
Northern Ireland reported 7,215 new cases of Covid on Friday and another death.