U.K. Reports Record Daily COVID Cases With Omicron Spreading Rapidly

LONDON (Reuters) -
Ambulances are seen in front of St Thomas’ Hospital as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in London, Britain, December 12, 2021. (REUTERS/May James)

On Wednesday, the United Kingdom recorded its most daily coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic as a senior British health chief said there could be a “staggering” rise over the next few days.

A further 78,610 COVID-19 infections were reported, about 10,000 more than the previous high reported in January.

More than 11 million people have now tested positive for the disease in the United Kingdom, which has a total population of around 67 million.

With a new highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus surging across Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned of a “tidal wave” of infections.

However, in a blow to his authority on Tuesday, he suffered the biggest rebellion of his premiership when more than 100 lawmakers voted against measures to curb the increasing spread of the disease.

Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, earlier called the Omicron variant “probably the most significant threat” since the start of the pandemic.

“The numbers that we see on data over the next few days will be quite staggering compared to the rate of growth that we’ve seen in cases for previous variants,” she told a parliamentary committee.

Harries said that Omicron had the potential to put the national health service “in serious peril” because of the speed at which infections were increasing.

The new variant of the virus has a doubling time under two days in most regions in Britain, with its growth rate was being notable in London and Manchester in particular.

More than 10,000 cases of Omicron have been recorded, with at least 10 people hospitalized. One person has died after contracting the variant, which is set to become the dominant strain in London.

More than 146,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United Kingdom.