Hospitals in the UK are under immense strain amid an “alarming” rise in COVID-19 cases, the country’s prime minister said on Saturday, urging citizens to stay at home.

“Our hospitals are under more pressure than at any other time since the start of the pandemic, and infection rates continue to soar at an alarming rate,” Boris Johnson said on Twitter.

“The vaccine rollout has given us renewed hope, but it’s critical for now we stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

A new variant of the coronavirus, which is up to 70% more transmissible, has sent infections and fatalities surging across the UK.

The country reported record highs of 1,325 deaths and 68,053 new cases on Friday.

The UK’s overall case count is now above 2.95 million, including nearly 80,000 fatalities.

The grim situation has forced authorities to mobilize emergency hospitals built at the start of the pandemic last year, according to various media reports.

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