Covid cases UK: the 15 areas with the highest coronavirus rates in 2021
The Omicron Covid variant has caused infection rates to soar and is now the dominant strain in the UK
New figures estimated that 2.3 million people in private households across the country had coronavirus in the week ending 23 December, up from 1.4 million the previous week.
This is the highest number since comparable figures for the UK began in autumn last year.
In London the figure was one in 15, which is the highest proportion for any region in England.
Infection levels were also at record highs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with one in 40 people in each nation estimated to have the virus in the week to 23 December.
Some coronavirus restrictions have been tightened as a result of the rising infections, including the mandatory use of face masks indoors and Covid passes to access certain venues in England, but the Prime Minister has so far ruled out a full scale lockdown.
Boris Johnson said “continuing uncertainty” about the severity of the new variant and hospital admission rates means he does not believe stricter measures are justified at the moment, but tougher rules in the New Year have not yet been ruled out.
Limits on household mixing, stricter social distancing rules, an 8pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a full country-wide lockdown are understood to be among the options being considered for England.
The government has said it will continue to monitor the Omicron variant “very closely” and action may be taken if the situation deteriorates any further.
Mr Johnson said the new variant is spreading at a “speed unlike anything we’ve seen before” and urged people to be “remain cautious”.
The arrival of the variant in the UK marks a sombre end to the year, with infection rates now thought to be doubling every couple of days.
But where in the UK has been worst affected by Covid-19 cases over the course of the last 12 months? Listed are the 15 areas which have recorded the highest coronavirus rates per 100,000 people in 2021, based on the data from 1 January to 19 December. Images are for illustrative purposes only.