The UK has seen another new coronavirus record with 55,892 more cases recorded in the past 24 hours and another 964 deaths.
The new figures are an increase from Wednesday’s record of 53,135, which had been the highest daily figure since the beginning of the pandemic.
Of the new cases, 49,510 were recorded in England, with 2,622 in Scotland, 1,831 in Wales and 1,929 in Northern Ireland.
The new figures bring the UK case total to 2,488,780 with 73,512 deaths.
Speaking as the figures were released, Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, pleaded with members of the public to stay in on New Year’s Eve, echoing pleas from police and the government.
Dr Doyle said: “The Christmas week saw a worrying rise in cases across every region of the country, particularly among adults in their 20s and 30s.“
“We must not now add further fuel to the fire, as meeting in close and large groups this New Year’s Eve risks further transmission.”
“We know the overwhelming majority of deaths reported today are people who sadly passed away in just the last few days.
“We have all had to make huge sacrifices this year, but please ensure that you keep your distance from others, wash your hands and wear a mask.
“ A night in at New Year will mean you are significantly reducing your social contacts and can help stop the spread of the virus.”
The new figures were released as millions were set to enter a period of tier 4 restrictions, which will leave three-quarters of people in England under the strictest set of rules to combat the spread of the new coronavirus variant.
Rates of infection continue to rise in all English regions, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England.
London’s rate of new cases stood at 735.5 per 100,000 people in the seven days to 27 December, up from 711.9 in the previous week.
Eastern England saw the second highest rate, followed by southeast England, while Yorkshire and the Humber had the lowest rate at 188.3.
Case rates in England remain highest among 30 to 39-year-olds while the rates among people aged 80 and over fell, Public Health England said.
Public health officials have raised alarm over the number of patients currently in hospitals in England, which at 22,713 stands higher than during the first-wave peak.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS providers, said pressure on hopitals was “Intensifying”, warning “we are in for a very difficult New Year.”