Britain reports record high new cases, deaths

Britain has recorded both its highest daily increase in new cases of COVID-19 and its highest death toll.

The British government reported 68,053 cases and 1,325 fatalities on Friday, both record single-day tallies since the pandemic began.

New cases have been on the rise in the country even since the daily infection count surpassed 50,000 on December 29.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients increased by 20 percent to about 28,200 in England over a one-week period this month. The figure far exceeded the 18,900 recorded at a peak of infections last spring.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said hospital beds in the capital would run out within the next few weeks because the spread of the virus was out of control.

The new surge comes as a variant of the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly in the country. The mutated virus is believed to be highly contagious.

The British government announced on Friday it had approved the use of a coronavirus vaccine made by US pharmaceutical firm Moderna.

The government said it has ordered 17 million doses of the vaccine and they are expected to be available from the spring.

So far Britain has inoculated around 1.5 million people with two coronavirus vaccines -- one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, and the other by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.