Live updates: follow the latest news on Covid-19 variant Omicron
The UK reported a record number of Covid-19 cases on Friday, with 122,186 new infections.
It is the third consecutive day a record has been set for daily reported cases, and is up from 119,789 on Thursday and 106,122 cases on Wednesday.
There were 137 further deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, down from 147 on Thursday, bringing the total during the pandemic to 147,857.
The UK Health Security Agency said there had been 23,719 additional confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, bringing the total confirmed infections of the mutation in the UK to 114,625.
The number of deaths in England of people with the Omicron variant has risen to 29, while hospital admissions in England for people with confirmed or suspected Omicron rose to 366.
About one in 35 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to December 19, according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics, which is up from one in 45 in the week to December 16.
National statistician Sir Ian Diamond said the “sobering” figures showed “really big increases” in Covid-19 cases.
He said there were “some indications” of people engaging in “safer behaviour” in response to the Omicron wave. But he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “At the moment I think it’s far too early to suggest that we will see anything other than a continued rise.”
Sir Ian denied being “shaken” by the speed of the rise in cases, because “I think we were gearing ourselves up for them”.
“But at the same time, clearly they are really big increases, and that’s why it was incredibly important, we felt, to get them out into the public domain as soon as possible.”