UK records 100,000 daily Covid cases for first time during pandemic

No new restrictions expected for England before Christmas despite Omicron spread

Live updates: follow the latest news on Covid-19 variant Omicron

The UK has recorded more than 100,000 daily Covid-19 cases for the first time since the start of the pandemic, in large part driven by the Omicron mutation.

Its toll on Wednesday, 106,122 cases, is the greatest number of infections reported since widespread testing began last summer. The Government said a further 140 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus.

The new high came as the four UK states tackle growing outbreaks, the Pfizer vaccine is approved for vulnerable young children and Princess Anne admits she is in isolation.

Across Europe, other countries are increasing Covid restrictions as the Christmas holiday week begins.

A total of 8,008 people were in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 as of December 21.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show 173,000 death certificates registered in the UK mention Covid-19.

Omicron is now the dominant variant among new cases of coronavirus in all regions of England, new analysis suggests.

In London, which was the first English region to see Omicron become the dominant strain, 90.2 per cent of sample coronavirus cases detected the likely presence of the variant.

For England as a whole, the figure, published by the UK Health Security Agency, is 76 per cent.

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was approved for use by five to 11-year-olds on Wednesday, with an estimated 330,000 in the new category.

A low-dose version of the vaccine has been approved for those aged 5 to 11 who are in a clinical risk group, or who are a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed.

They should be offered a primary course of vaccination, typically two doses.

Despite the surge, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed he will not introduce new restrictions before Christmas.

He has refused to rule out further measures from December 26 onwards, despite the continued rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

But the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each announced new post-Christmas restrictions.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has criticised the apparent lack of action by Mr Johnson’s administration.

“The UK government is in a state of paralysis,” he said. “Omicron has a doubling time of around two days and on that basis by Boxing Day we can expect to see many thousands of new cases across Wales every day.”

The government has urged those who are unvaccinated or eligible for a booster shot to come forward and be inoculated.

It has also slashed the Covid-19 self-isolation period in England to one week, from 10 days, for people who have a negative lateral flow test result for two days in a row.

In Northern Ireland, nightclubs will have to close at 6am. All indoor standing events will be banned and dancing, except at weddings, is also forbidden.

The husband of Princess Anne, Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, has tested positive for coronavirus, and they will have to isolate at home over Christmas.

Meanwhile, former UK prime minister Tony Blair has declared that those who refuse to be vaccinated, without medical reasons, are "idiots".

“Frankly, if you’re not vaccinated at the moment and you’re eligible and you’ve got no health reason for not being vaccinated, you’re not just irresponsible," Mr Blair told Times Radio. "I mean, you’re an idiot.

“I’m sorry, I mean that is, truthfully you are. Because this Omicron variant is so contagious, if you’re unvaccinated and you’re in circulation, you’re going to get it. And … that is going to put a lot of strain on the health service."

Gillian Keegan, a UK health minister, asked about whether New Year's Eve parties should go ahead, said: “There is uncertainty. We can’t predict what the data is going to tell us before we’ve got the data.”

The World Health Organisation said another Covid storm was coming to Europe.

“Within weeks, Omicron will dominate in more countries of the region, with a threat to push already overwhelmed health systems further to the brink,” said Dr Hans Kluge, head of the WHO’s Europe office.

Updated: December 22nd 2021, 8:09 PM