COVID cases in the UK have risen by almost 45,000 in the highest Saturday jump in 14 weeks – as experts warn of a Christmas lockdown.
A further 44,985 people tested positive for the disease – bringing the total number of infections since the pandemic began to 8,734,934.
The UK also recorded 135 deaths with the total number of Covid victims now at 139,461.
Today's case rise is the highest on a Saturday since July 17 when 54,674 tested positive.
Yesterday, cases rose by 49,298 and 180 further deaths were recorded.
Rising case numbers have sparked fears another lockdown could be on the cards.
Sage scientist Professor Peter Openshaw has warned of a national shutdown over the festive period if measures aren't taken.
He told BBC Breakfast: "I'm very fearful that we're going to have another lockdown Christmas if we don't act soon.
"We know that with public health measures the time to act is immediately. There's no point in delaying.
"We all really, really want a wonderful family Christmas where we can all get back together.
"If that's what we want, we need to get these measures in place now in order to get transmission rates right down so that we can actually get together and see one another over Christmas."
The expert current death rates are "unacceptable" and urged Brits return to working from home.
His plea has been echoed in a joint statement from unions including the TUC, Usdaw, Unison, Unite, the GMB and Aslef.
Boris Johnson yesterday vowed to do "whatever we have to do" to keep rising Covid cases under control but insisted a full lockdown isn't "on the cards".
The PM urged Brits to be increasingly "cautious" and start wearing masks again amid alarm over spiralling infections.
On Thursday, daily Covid cases passed 50,000 for the first time in three months when a further 52,009 tested positive.
The last time daily infections surpassed the grim milestone was on July 17 when 54,674 fresh cases were reported.
Boris said: "Our autumn and winter plan always predicted that cases would rise around about now. We’re certainly seeing that in the numbers.
"We’re seeing high levels of infection, but they’re not outside the parameters of what was predicted or what we thought we’d see.
"But it’s very important people do follow the guidance on general behaviour, on being cautious."
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