Germany on Thursday recorded the highest single-day spike in coronavirus cases since early January, as a more contagious UK variant has become the dominant strain in the country.

The Robert Koch Institute confirmed 29,426 more coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, up from 21,693 on Wednesday. The institute also reported 293 more deaths from COVID-19.

Thursday’s figures marked the highest rise since Jan. 8, when 31,849 people tested positive for the virus.

The more contagious UK variant (B.1.1.7) of the virus has become the predominant strain in the country, making up nearly 85% of new cases, compared to about 7% of cases two months ago.

Dr. Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, has warned that the third wave of the pandemic has brought hospitals close to their limits.

“We can already say that in a few days there will be no more free beds in some of the intensive care units,” he told a news conference in Berlin.

According to the DIVI association for emergency medicine, currently 4,680 coronavirus patients are receiving treatment in intensive care units, with 2,653 of them on mechanical ventilators.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government is planning to introduce stricter lockdown measures this month to bring the third coronavirus wave under control.

Germany currently has the fifth-highest tally of infections in Western Europe behind France, the UK, Italy, and Spain.

The national total now stands at nearly 3.1 million cases with at least 79,381 fatalities.

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