New variant? No masks? What’s driving UK’s COVID-19 crisis as cases spiral out of control

What a difference three months can make.

On July 19, Britons celebrated as England marked ‘Freedom Day’, seeing a near-full lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

COVID-related hospitalisations and deaths were relatively low, even if cases continued to rise, and the country’s vaccination rollout was largely lauded as a success internationally.

On Thursday, there were more than 50,000 infections recorded in the UK in a single day – the highest daily count since mid-July and a higher number than reported in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal combined.

The country also saw 115 deaths, with Tuesday marking a daily death toll of 223 people – the highest since March.

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