Another 78,610 COVID cases have been recorded in the UK, the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic.
The previous record was on 8 January 2021, when 68,053 were reported.
The government also reported a further 165 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. This time last week, 161 deaths were recorded.
This time last week, 8 December, 51,342 coronavirus cases were reported.
The record number of lab-confirmed cases should “worry us all”, the chief executive of NHS England has said.
Asked about the news, Amanda Pritchard told the Commons Public Accounts Committee: “That is a stark reminder of why the current national mission to get COVID vaccination is the right one.”
She added: “I think that figure should worry all of us and that’s why the booster programme is so important.”
A further 4,671 cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed – bringing the total to 10,017. Today’s figure includes some additional cases from yesterday, which were not recorded at the time “due to a data issue that is now resolved”.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) added: “A change to the case definition also contributes to the rise in Omicron cases we see today.”
In the latest 24-hour period where figures are available, another 774 COVID patients were admitted to hospitals in the UK – with the total now 7,673, including 896 on ventilators.
This is slightly up from the same time the previous week when 738 patients were admitted.
Meanwhile, yesterday 34,082 people received their first dose of a vaccine, while 37,888 were given a second. This means 46,842,497 people have received two jabs so far, equivalent to 81.5% of the population.
And 656,711 booster or third jabs were administered bringing the UK total to 24,732,162 people – equivalent to 43% of the population.
The figures come one week after Boris Johnson toughened COVID-19 rules in England amid concerns over the increasing spread of the Omicron variant.
From today, the use of coronavirus health certificates to demonstrate vaccination or a negative test for entry into large venues in England has become mandatory – despite a rebellion from Conservative MPs last night as it was voted through the House of Commons.
Mr Johnson held a Downing Street news conference on Tuesday evening where he reinforced the importance of the vaccination rollout, while England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, warned “records will be broken a lot over the next few weeks” as COVID rates continue to rise across the UK.
The prime minister did not announce any further restrictions however, during a visit to Gordon Hospital today the health secretary refused to rule out any further restrictions in the future.
Sajid Javid, when asked if more guidance would be issued, said: “We keep the whole situation under review. It is fast-moving, I think people understand that.
“The case numbers are still sadly rising rapidly, we have been very open about how quickly this new variant spreads, we have seen it double in terms of infections every two to three days across the country.”
Omicron has overtaken Delta as the dominant coronavirus variant in London.
Chief executive of the UKHSA Dr Jenny Harries told MPs that the new variant was “probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic“.
She also warned of a “staggering” number of cases in the next few days compared with what has gone before.