Covid: UK cases reach record again as PM urges New Year's Eve caution –

The UK is in an "incomparably better" position than this time last year – but people should stay cautious when out on New Year's Eve, the PM has said.
In a year-end message, Boris Johnson hailed the "heroic" vaccination effort, adding that all adults in England had now been offered a booster jab.
The PM urged those celebrating tonight to take a Covid test and "remember the importance of ventilation".
UK daily Covid cases reached another record high of 189,846 on Friday.
There were also 203 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive test.
And daily hospital admissions were up to 1,915 in the most recent figures available, from 27 December, compared with 1,506 the previous day.
However, the overall number of Covid patients in hospital only rose by 20, suggesting the number of patients admitted was broadly similar to the number being discharged.
New Year's Eve celebrations have been scaled back across much of the country as the more infectious Omicron variant continues to drive up cases.
Mr Johnson resisted calls to impose new regulations in England in the run-up to new year, but in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, tighter rules are now in place for pubs, bars and restaurants.
Events, including the traditional Trafalgar Square party in London and Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations, have been cancelled.
Amid warnings people should celebrate outdoors or in well-ventilated places, the Met Office said the UK was experiencing the warmest New Year's Eve on record – with Merryfield in Somerset recording a temperature of 15.8C (60.4F) earlier on Friday.
Benjamin Smith, from London, told the BBC he would be heading out to celebrate the new year, despite not often doing so in the past.
"I've had three jabs and recently recovered from an Omicron infection," he said, adding he would be going to a music event requiring proof of vaccination.
"I work in the events sector. We have had a torrid time of it throughout the pandemic, and I was effectively banned from doing my job for 15 months.
"I've done everything asked of me, and now is the time to do away with rules and allow people to make their own decisions. We can't be so averse to risk forever. "
Joanne Hopton from Derbyshire will be joining friends at the local pub for a meal and to hear some music.
"We were worried before Christmas about a lockdown, but are really pleased this hasn't come about," she said.
Joanne says she is fully vaccinated and has had her booster, and is currently taking lateral flow tests every day "as I have had a cold".
"I have followed all the advice, all the rules, got vaccinated – all so we can get on with life. To lock down now would be cruel," she adds.
But Peter, from Shropshire, plans to stay home and enjoy "the simple pleasures of life".
"One night in the year is no big deal! We don't need to have masses of drink or people to be happy."
The Department of Health and Social Care said it had met the goal set by the prime minister earlier this month for all eligible adults in England to be offered a Covid booster by 31 December.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also said they had met the booster target.
More than 90% of the UK population aged 12 and over have now received a first dose of a vaccine, it added.
Meanwhile, new data has shown a booster vaccine is initially 88% effective at preventing people ending up in hospital with coronavirus.
The UK Health Security Agency said there was not enough data to work out how long the protection would last, however.
The boosters work: it looks like a third dose better than halves your chances of catching a case of Omicron that puts you in hospital.
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of everyone behind the vaccine rollout, nearly 30% of people with two doses are yet to receive a booster.
And while Omicron looks to be roughly one-third as severe as Delta, cases are already three times higher than they were before the latest variant arrived.
And Plan B restrictions haven't checked Omicron, so we could see numbers run higher still.
We should prepare for rises in admissions, baked in by current case figures; more than a million cases were reported in the past week.
We're already seeing those effects in England, where slightly more current data show sharp rises in admissions.
Things are looking far, far better than they did last December – but the coming weeks will not be easy.
Analysis of the Omicron variant has shown people who catch it are up to 70% less likely to need hospital treatment compared with other variants.
But leading statistician Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter warned daily cases in the UK could be far higher than official statistics show because of problems with testing, and the fact reinfections are not counted.
"We could be talking about half a million new infections per day," he said.
Prof Sir David said there was going to be "a huge wave of cases" that "is going to cause big disruption" in hospitals – but that in terms of "very serious outcomes", there was cause to be optimistic.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the rise in hospitalisations was particularly affecting over 60s, but that the UK now has "some of the strongest defences this country has ever had during this pandemic", including antivirals.
In other developments:
What are the social distancing rules?
How can I tell I have Omicron?
Omicron and Delta driving case tsunami – WHO
NHS preps Nightingale surge hubs as Covid soars
Calls for NHS staff priority for rapid Covid tests
Who can still get free Covid tests?
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