A further 86 cases of the new Omicron COVID variant have been reported in the UK, taking the total to 246.
This compares with a total of 160 yesterday – an increase of more than 50%.
The UK Health Security Agency, which publishes the figures, says 18 of the cases are in Scotland, taking its total up to 48.
The figures come as one expert told Sky News the UK could face “more stringent measures” after Christmas to counter the spread of the new variant.
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said the emergence of Omicron in the UK was “appalling timing” as the next few weeks are “one of the highest risk periods… with a lot of indoor socialising”.
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He said that the government “would love not to disrupt Christmas”, but he warned: “What happens after Christmas is another matter.”
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab also told Sky News: “The government wants people to enjoy Christmas this year”, adding that employers should take a “common sense” approach to office parties.