The rate of Covid spread could be slowing, figures suggest, with a drop of almost 10,000 new infections in one day.
A further 99,652 people were found to have contracted Covid-19 in the UK within 24 hours, according to government statistics.
That was a decrease compared to the 109,133 new infections recorded in the last 24 hours, but it brings the total number of infections to 15,066,395 – almost one in four of the UK population.
And another 270 people have died within 28 days of testing positive, according to government statistics – down from the 335 deaths reported on Thursday.
There have been 1,869 coronavirus-related deaths in the UK over the past week – a two-thirds increase from the previous seven days.
However, new analysis suggests tens of thousands of new cases are not included in the official daily figures.
An average of 114,600 new cases were recorded each day for the week ending December 23, according to the government’s Covid-19 dashboard.
But the true figure could have been more than three times that, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates.
This means that more than a million and a half new cases of coronavirus may have been missed in the official figures in the week leading up to Christmas.
High levels of under-reporting will continue to impact the government’s daily figures, meaning the current volume of cases in the UK is unclear.
The ONS released the data as part of its weekly infection survey, which estimates both the overall prevalence of the virus across the country and the number of new cases.
Samples from more than 150,000 people in private homes show there were an estimated 357,600 new cases of Covid-19 each day for the week ended December 23, more than triple the 114,600 recorded on the government dashboard.
Kevin McConway, professor emeritus of applied statistics at the Open University, said the ONS survey is a more reliable source of information than the government’s dashboard because it is unaffected by changes in the number and type of people routinely tested or the availability of testing.
He said: “A large proportion of new infections are not caught by the routine tests that provide the dashboard numbers. In addition, ONS estimates can account for reinfections. Dashboard case numbers do not currently count anyone as a case if they were previously counted as a case, so reinfections are excluded.
“This is a potential problem with Omicron because there is evidence that it is significantly more likely to infect previously infected people than previous variants.”