Britain breaks daily record with 40,000 cases as new COVID variant spreads

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Johnson said last week that the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus meant difficult times ahead, and ministers said more would be needed.

The increase in positive cases was also partly driven by Northern Ireland reporting 1,634 new cases, as no cases were reported on Sunday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday period.

It was unclear whether an increase in cases in England by almost 11,000 was partly due to fluctuations in test figures over the holiday weekend, as data on numbers of people tested since Wednesday had not been published.

Britain has significantly increased test capacity since the first wave of COVID-19 in the spring, from around 100,000 daily tests at the end of May to 500,000 tests on 23 December, the last date on which the number of tests performed was published.