The number of UK daily Covid cases is in six figures for the third time as another record high was reached.
The government said lab-confirmed coronavirus cases were 122,186 as of 9am on Thursday, and a further 137 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid.
On Wednesday, recorded case rates of Covid across the UK rose above 100,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, new data has emerged showing that Covid infection levels have reached a new record high after a senior health official said findings that the Omicron variant is milder offer a “glimmer of Christmas hope”.
An estimated 1.7 million people in the UK had Covid-19 in the week ending December 19, the highest number since comparable figures began in autumn 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The new interim data, published on Friday, also shows that around one in 35 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to December 19 – up from one in 45 in the seven days to December 16.
This is the highest estimate for England since the ONS began estimating community infection levels for England in May 2020, and is equivalent to around 1.5 million people.
The latest figures come after UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said data suggesting Omicron may be less likely to lead to serious illness than the Delta variant of coronavirus offers a “glimmer of Christmas hope”.
But she warned that it is too early to downgrade the threat from the new strain, which is still spreading rapidly across the UK.
Dr Harries told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that more information is needed, particularly about the impact on elderly and more vulnerable patients.
She added: “There is a glimmer of Christmas hope in the findings that we published yesterday, but it definitely isn’t yet at the point where we could downgrade that serious threat.”
The UKHSA estimates that someone with Omicron is between 31% and 45% less likely to attend A&E and 50% to 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital than an individual with the Delta variant.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.