The United Kingdom has hit a record number of coronavirus cases with 78,610 people testing positive for the disease in the past 24 hours, the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic.
The figure surpasses the previous peak in UK cases – infections that are picked up through testing – of 68,053 reported on January 8, 2021. That compares with 59,610 infections and 150 fatalities reported in the 24 hours prior.
The new number underlines that the Omicron variant is sweeping the country. A quarter of the cases were reported in London, where Wednesday’s figure of 19,294 was almost three times the total on the same day last week. The UK Health and Security Agency estimated earlier this week that the number of daily Omicron infections was about 200,000.
According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), 4,671 new cases of Omicron were reported on Wednesday, bringing the total to 10,017.
The UK also recorded a further 165 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to the latest data from the government’s coronavirus dashboard.
The caseload came as Dr Jenny Harries, the Chief Executive of the UK Health and Security Agency, told the House of Commons Transport Committee that Omicron was “probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic,” adding that the data expected on growth rates over the next few days “will be quite staggering compared to the rate of growth that we’ve seen in cases for previous variants.”
“The difficulty is that the growth of this virus, it has a doubling time which is shortening – it’s doubling faster, growing faster,” she said, adding that when Omicron first arrived, the doubling time was estimated to be four or five days.