Britain has recorded more than 50,000 Covid-19 cases for the fifth day in a row but hospital deaths from the virus have dipped to fewer than 500.
Another 57,725 had positive test results in the last 24 hours, meaning 2,599,789 have had the disease in the UK since the pandemic began.
The country also saw an additional 445 deaths, taking the grim official count to 74,570 – but 90,000 people in total have died with Covid-19 on their death certificate.
It comes after experts warned hospitals the current number of coronavirus cases is ‘mild’ compared to what is coming next week.
President of the Royal College of Physicians Professor Andrew Goddard said the 53,285 infections figure is set to rise.
He also noted healthcare workers in Britain are ‘really worried’ about the battle against the virus over the next few months.
Meanwhile the majority of planned operations in London hospitals have been halted so medics can tackle the spiralling number of Covid patients.
A staggering 29 out of 39 NHS hospital trusts there have postponed elective surgery – bar cancer-related issues and emergency ones – with areas like Kent also pausing procedures.
President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England Neil Mortensen said the problems facing health centres was ‘like watching a car crash in slow motion’.
He told the Times: ‘At the same time as people returned to work, to restaurants and shops, the new more contagious variant insidiously took hold in the south and east of England.
‘Hospitals started to see the effects in mid-December, and across many parts of the country now, scheduled operations for hip or knee replacements, or ear, nose and throat operations, have had to be cancelled.
‘Thousands of people already waiting, in pain or immobile for many months, will have been sorely disappointed this Christmas to have their operation cancelled or postponed.’
A nurse also outlined the desperate situation in hospitals, with patients running out of oxygen and being left in ambulances and corridors.
And a junior A&E doctor was left ‘heartbroken’ after being met with a crowd of maskless revellers chanting ‘Covid is a hoax’ after his New Year’s Eve shift in London.