THE UK has seen 194,747 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours – a dip on the record high reported yesterday.
Another 334 deaths have also been logged today, taking the tragic toll to 149,284.
Today's new fatalities are higher than the past few days – but this is also because they include a backlog of hospital deaths unreported by NHS England since January 1.
A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron is milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.
It comes after more than three million people in the UK had Covid in the last week of 2021.
The latest infection figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the highest number of Brits since records began were hit with the bug.
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However there are early signs that cases are going down in younger Londoners, which could pave the way for the end of the outbreak in the capital.
Cases have risen sharply in the past month since Omicron arrived in the UK, but while it spreads quickly, the variant has been found to be a less serious illness.
The ONS infection survey for last week shows 3.7million people were infected with Covid – up from 2.3million in the week before Christmas.
Sarah Crofts, Head of Analytical Outputs for the Covid-19 Infection Survey said: "We continue to see infections across the UK increase, with Omicron now the dominant variant across all four nations.
“There are early signs of a potential slowing of infections in London in the days before New Year’s Eve. However, it is too early to suggest this is a change in trend overall.
“The data continues to change rapidly, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
One in ten people in London were hit with the super spreading virus in the week running up to December 31, with one in 15 people testing positive in England.
Yesterday Professor Neil Ferguson said he thinks cases will start to drop in the next week.
He added: "I would say that, with an epidemic which has been spreading so quickly and reaching such high numbers, it can’t sustain those numbers forever, so we would expect to see case numbers start to come down in the next week, maybe already coming down in London, but in other regions a week to three weeks."
It comes as the PM insisted Britain can “ride out the Omicron wave”, despite staff sickness hitting transport and schools.
As a record 218,000 new Covid cases were confirmed yesterday, Boris Johnson ruled out any new curbs.
Further restrictions would damage “people’s life chances, mental health and the economy”, he warned.
But he accepted the weeks ahead will be “challenging” and “some services will be disrupted”.
Hospitals are beginning to feel the strain as cases rise and staff are off sick with the variant – but they are not yet as high as the level of admissions seen last winter.
Multiple trusts around the country have declared critical incidents, with reports saying Greater Manchester's hospital beds are 96 per cent full.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, public health director for Lancashire County Council, warned the county was at "the foothills" of an Omicron wave.
It comes as Brits who test positive with a DIY lateral flow test won't need to do a follow-up PCR check from January 11.
Instead, people in England can self-isolate for a week as long as they are negative on day six and seven.
Currently, Brits must have a gold-standard PCR swab after a positive lateral flow – and this is still the case until the new rules comes in.
But by eliminating the need to wait for a PCR test, symptomless Covid patients could see their isolation cut down by one or two days – but must report their lateral flow results so cases can still be properly tracked.
While infection rates are high, anyone testing positive on a lateral flow can be confident they have the virus.
From next Tuesday, you should still have a PCR if you are showing symptoms and have had both a negative or positive lateral flow.
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