THE UK has recorded 53,135 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours in the biggest rise yet.
There have been 414 more deaths, taking the grim total to 71,567, as hospital admissions go well past the April peak.
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The number of people being treated for the killer bug in hospitals in England is now 21,286, compared to 18,974 patients recorded during the peak on April 12.
Today's large case number also reflects a lag from some logged infections over the Christmas period when offices in Scotland and Ireland were closed.
There are 1,529 patients on ventilators in the UK, with 616,933 people now vaccinated with their first dose.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Senior Medical Advisor at Public Health England, said: “We are continuing to see unprecedented levels of COVID-19 infection across the UK, which is of extreme concern particularly as our hospitals are at their most vulnerable.
"Whilst the number of cases reported today include some from over the festive period, these figures are largely a reflection of a real increase."
Another 365 people who tested positive for coronavirus died in hospital in England, NHS England said today.
Patients were aged between 26 and 101. All except 12, aged between 43 and 92, had known underlying health conditions.
There have been a further 2,510 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 144,425.
Public Health Wales reported another 33 deaths today, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 3,416.
Scotland recorded seven deaths from coronavirus between December 25 and 29, but this number is likely to increase when the data catches up with the lag now register offices are open.
Yesterday 41,385 new cases of Covid were recorded in the last 24 hours – today the total has increased by more than 10,000.
It comes as Britain could be thrown into a "Tier 5" lockdown with even more harsher restrictions than the November lockdown.
NHS boss Sir Simon Stevens has predicted that 22million Brits will be vaccinated by spring.
Sir Simon called it “the biggest chink of hope for the year ahead”.
He added: "We are back in the eye of the storm with a second wave of coronavirus sweeping Europe and, indeed, this country.
“We think by late spring, with vaccine supplies continuing to come on stream, we will have been able to offer all vulnerable people across this country Covid vaccination."
The number of people being treated for the killer bug in hospitals in England is around 20,426, compared to 18,974 patients recorded on April 12.
Medics have warned of cases rising at "unprecedented levels" as hospitals feel the strain with admission numbers matching the April peak.
Dr Andrew Lansdown, a consultant endocrinologist at the University
Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, said: "It's starting to sound a bit like a cliche but it really is true that these are unprecedented times, we really have felt stretched to the limit.
"In the past week or two things have become relentless, we're under extreme pressure and the numbers of patients coming through now with coronavirus are massive."
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