Britain may be locked down for a third time as the country breaks a daily record with more than 40,000 new cases

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“This very high level of infection is of growing concern at a time when our hospitals are at their most vulnerable state,” said Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his scientific advisers have said that a different type of coronavirus, which could be up to 70 percent more transmissible, is spreading rapidly in Britain, although it is not believed to be more deadly or cause a more serious disease.

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This has led to strict measures of socializing restrictions in London and the southeast of England, while plans to ease restrictions over Christmas across the country have been drastically scaled back or canceled.

Johnson said last week that the spread of a new type of coronavirus meant that there would be difficult times ahead, and ministers said that more might be necessary.

The rise in positive cases was partly driven by Northern Ireland reporting 1,634 new cases, after it reported no cases on Sunday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday period.

It was unclear whether the rise in cases in England of close to 11,000 was due in part to fluctuations in the numbers’ testing over the weekend, as no data has been released on the number of people being tested since Wednesday.

Britain has dramatically increased its testing capacity since the first wave of COVID-19 in the spring, from nearly 100,000 daily tests at the end of May to 500,000 tests on December 23, the latest date for the publication of data on the number of tests conducted.

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