The number of people infected with coronavirus in the UK has increased by about a million in the space of a week, official figures show.
The increase is being driven by the Omicron BA2 sub-variant of the virus, according to government statisticians who say infections are at near-record levels.
Hospital admissions are also rising but are below the January Omicron peak and far below the levels reached among the largely unvaccinated population of early 2021.
Modelling by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested cases were currently highest among very young children, with about one in 12 people of junior school age estimated to be positive.
Across the country, about 4.3 million people were estimated to have Covid-19 in the latest weekly survey by the ONS, up from 3.3 million a week earlier.
The infection rate was especially high in Scotland, where about one in 11 people were thought to be infected compared with one in 16 in England and similar rates in Wales and Northern Ireland.
The official estimates suggested cas numberes were rising in all regions of England and were especially high in the south and east.
England ended all domestic restrictions on February 24 and last week lifted its last remaining curbs on international travel. Case numbers are also rising in some countries in continental Europe, including Italy and France.
Chief medical officer Prof Sir Chris Whitty said this week that hospital admissions were likely to rise but that high rates of transmission were not translating into surges in intensive care treatment or deaths.
About 86 per cent of over-12s are fully vaccinated in Britain and 67 per cent have received a booster shot. The National Health Service this week started inviting older and vulnerable people for a fourth dose.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday held a moment's silence to mark two years since the first national lockdown in Britain. About 164,000 people have died after testing positive for the virus.