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Britain braces for new spike in virus cases

British hospitals around the country face a perilous situation in January, medical workers warned Friday amid surging coronavirus infections blamed on a new virus variant.

Authorities pressed to reactivate field hospitals previously mothballed just to handle the crush of new patients.

Concerns are mounting about the ability of the already stretched National Health Service to cope with the anticipated increase in people seeking treatment for COVID-19 infections over the coming weeks that could be further fueled by holiday gatherings over Christmas and New Year’s.

On Friday, the U.K. recorded another 53,285 new infections, down slightly from the previous day’s record high of 55,892. Although comparisons with the outset of the pandemic are difficult given that testing was limited in the spring, the U.K. has recorded its four highest daily new infection numbers over the past four days — all above 50,000 and around double the daily number of a few weeks ago.

The spike in new cases is said to be due to a new, more contagious variant of the virus first identified around London and the southeast of England.

READ MORE: U.S. hits 20 million-mark in COVID-19 cases