The number of UK daily Covid cases has reached another record high.
The government said lab-confirmed coronavirus cases were 183,037 as of 9am on Wednesday, and a further 57 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid.
On Tuesday, 138,831 infections were reported – the previous high.
A week ago, recorded case rates of Covid across the UK rose above 100,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, a total of 10,462 people were in hospital in England with Covid-19 as of 8am on Wednesday, according to figures from NHS England.
This is up 48% from a week earlier and is the highest number since March 1.
During the second wave of coronavirus, the number peaked at 34,336 on January 18.
In London, 3,310 people were in hospital with Covid-19 on December 29, up 63% week-on-week and the highest number since February 16.
The second-wave peak for London was 7,917 on January 18.
It comes as Boris Johnson’s government is scrambling to secure supplies of Covid-19 tests as the prime minister urged people to get swabbed before enjoying New Year celebrations.
Ministers acknowledged a worldwide supply issue is hitting the UK as people again struggled to get tests through pharmacies or delivered to their home.
On Wednesday, the UK Health Security Agency said almost eight million test kits would be made available to pharmacies by New Year’s Eve.
The government website showed no PCR tests were available for home delivery – even for essential workers – in England or Northern Ireland, with “very few” in Scotland, while Wales had availability only in some regions.
Home delivery slots for lateral flow tests were also unavailable on Wednesday afternoon.
Officials acknowledged that during periods of exceptional demand there could be “temporary pauses” in ordering or receiving tests in an attempt to manage distribution across the system.
The reduced postal system over Christmas has also added to the issues.
The government has encouraged regular testing as a way of keeping England’s economy open while the devolved administrations have closed nightclubs and taken other steps to limit social contact.
Tests are also being used to replace self-isolation for contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases, while people returning to work following the Christmas break has also added to demand.
During a visit to a vaccination centre in Milton Keynes on Wednesday, Johnson urged people to get tested before New Year’s Eve festivities.
He told reporters: “Everybody should enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way – take a test, ventilation, think about others but, above all, get a booster.”
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “The failure to make enough tests available weeks after they became a requirement is a total shambles.
“People are trying to do the right thing, follow the government’s own advice, and test themselves regularly, but are prevented by the Conservative government’s incompetence.
“They need to get a grip and provide enough tests so people can keep themselves and everyone else safe.”