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Northern Ireland now has two areas in the UK with the highest COVID rates after London was overtaken as the worst-hit area.
Derry City and Strabane and Fermanagh and Omagh have the highest infection rates in the latest figures, as the UK continues to battle a massive surge of the Omicron variant.
In England, the North West has taken over as the region with the highest rates of the virus, above London which was hit hardest at the beginning of the Omicron wave.
Cases are declining in several London boroughs amid early signs infections may be peaking in the capital, although this is not yet certain.
These are the 15 local authorities with the worst COVID outbreaks (seven-day rolling rate of new infections per 100,000 people):
Derry City and Strabane 4133.4
Fermanagh and Omagh 3229.2
Rhondda Cynon Taf 2804.4
Merthyr Tydfil 2793.6
Blaenau Gwent 2777.8
Newry, Mourne and Down 2617.9
St Helens 2573.2
North Lanarkshire 2526.2
Mid Ulster 2508.2
A further 194,747 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases were recorded in the UK as of 9am on Wednesday, while 334 more deaths were reported – although this figure includes a backlog of hospital data from England since 1 January.
Government figures also showed a total of 17,276 people were in hospital in the UK with COVID-19 as of 4 January, up 58% week-on-week – although far below the peak of almost 40,000 in January 2021.
A record one in 15 people in private households in England are estimated to have had the virus between Christmas and New Year, with as many as one in 10 in London, new figures show.
All parts of the country saw a steep jump in infections in the seven days to 31 December, with one in 20 people estimated to have the virus in Scotland and Wales, along with one in 25 in Northern Ireland.
In total, an estimated 3.7 million people in the UK had COVID in the week to New Year’s Eve, up from 2.3 million in the week to 23 December and the highest number since comparable figures began in autumn 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
All estimates are for private households and do not include hospitals, care homes and other settings.
In the Commons, Boris Johnson said hospital admissions were “doubling around every nine days” and “we’re experiencing the fastest growth in COVID cases we’ve ever known”.
Cases were doubling every week among the over-60s, he added.
But he said he would continue with Plan B measures – including wider use of face masks and guidance to work from home – because they were “helping to take the edge off the Omicron wave” and buying time for the booster campaign to take effect.
He said Plan B and the testing changes were “balanced and proportionate ways of ensuring we can live with COVID without letting our guard down”.
The prime minister told MPs the Cabinet had agreed to keep the existing domestic restrictions but eased travel testing rules.
People who test positive on a lateral flow test will no longer need a confirmatory PCR test to begin the self-isolation period if they do not have symptoms, potentially allowing them to return to work earlier.
The restrictions will be reviewed again before they are scheduled to expire on 26 January and would require a vote in the Commons to be extended beyond that date – something that could see the prime minister once again face a major backbench Tory revolt.
Watch: Omicron - what's happening across the UK?