The UK has recorded nearly 50,000 new coronavirus infections, marking the largest daily rise since lockdown rules ended in England three months ago.
For the sixth consecutive day, more than 40,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported, amounting to 49,156 new infections tallied on Monday.
The rise on Monday brought new daily cases even closer to the upper levels seen during the summer wave of infections, which peaked just below 55,000 on 17 July.
Prior to two days in July, daily cases had not exceeded 50,000 since January, when the emergence of the new and more infectious Delta variant led to an average of more than 1,000 deaths per day across that month.
Despite case numbers again soaring in the UK, experts say that widespread vaccination appears to have significantly compromised – but not broken – the link between infection and serious illness or death.
A further 45 deaths were reported on Monday. Although, as of the previous day, the weekly average for fatalities sat at 124 per day.
The latest figures from the Department of Health and Social Care showed that 915 people were hospitalised with coronavirus on Tuesday alone. As of Friday, there were nearly 7,100 coronavirus patients in hospital, 791 of whom were in ventilation beds.
The rise in new coronavirus infections – which previously sat around the 30,000 mark at the start of October – comes amid warnings that a winter crisis in the NHS is already underway, months before peak levels of pressure are typically reached.
In some accident and emergency departments, a number of patients have waited nearly 50 hours for a bed, The Independent reported on Monday, with multiple hospitals declaring incidents.
More than 90 per cent of hospital beds in England were occupied on Friday. Anything above 85 per cent is seen as an unsafe level.
“The winter presents a significant challenge for the health service,” Dr Katherine Henderson, president of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said, adding: “Staff are increasingly worried about the NHS’ ability to cope.
“The government need to recognise the potential crisis and support the health and care service as it tackles the challenges ahead.”
The latest figures come after it emerged last week that 43,000 people may have wrongly received a negative PCR test result between 8 September and 12 October, due to “technical issues” at a private lab in Wolverhampton, where operations have since been suspended.