The weekly number of new cases of Covid-19 reported in the UK has climbed to its highest level since January.
A total of 336,893 new cases have been reported in the past seven days – including 45,691 on Tuesday, Government figures show.
This is the highest number for a seven-day period since the week to January 16, when 339,956 were reported, according to analysis by the PA news agency.
The average number of reported cases has increased in recent days, though it is too soon to link this directly with the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus.
Case numbers in the UK have been running at a high level for several months, with the rolling seven-day total remaining above 200,000 since August.
But unlike the second wave of the virus in January, the current wave has not yet led to a surge in hospital admissions and deaths, which reflects the impact of the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.
At the peak of the second wave in mid-January, 39,254 people with Covid-19 were in hospital in the UK.
The latest figure is 7,317.
And the number of people dying within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 currently averages 122 a day, compared with a second-wave peak of 1,248.
Since mass testing began in the UK in summer 2020, the highest number of new cases reported in any seven-day period was 417,620, for the week to January 9 2021.
At the current rate of increase, this total could be passed before Christmas.