LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom on Wednesday reported 1,564 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test from COVID-19, a record daily toll, with the number of cases also rising slightly on the day before.

The reported number of deaths far exceeds the 1,325 recorded on Jan. 8 and comes as Britain battles a new more highly transmissible variant of the virus.

There were another 47,525 cases, up from 45,533 on Tuesday.

There have now been almost 85,000 deaths in Britain – the fifth highest figure globally – and 3.2 million have tested positive for COVID-19.

Although the death figure continues to rise, the number of reported cases over the last week has been falling from a record high of 68,053, also recorded on Jan. 8, suggesting lockdown measures were beginning to take effect.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there are about 32,000 COVID patients in hospitals, about 70% more than during the peak of the first outbreak last April, and he said the risk of intensive care units being overwhelmed was substantial.

“(Health workers) now really are fighting very, very hard to contain this pandemic after months and months in which they’ve really been working flat out and I think the strain is colossal,” he told lawmakers.

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