Another 35,623 COVID-19 cases and 180 virus-related deaths have been reported in the UK, with 7,124 people currently in hospital with the disease, according to the latest figures.
New infections are down slightly on Thursday’s 36,710, but up on last Friday’s 32,651, while the number of deaths compares to 182 and 178 respectively.
Meanwhile, 31,617 people had their first COVID-19 jab yesterday – the highest since 41,054 on 4 September. It means 48,705,771 Britons aged over 16 have now been jabbed (89.6% of that population).
And 44,817 second shots were given out, taking the total number of people double-jabbed to 44,644,887 (82.1%).
England’s R number also fell slightly on Friday, to between 0.8 and 1.0.
Last week, the R-value – or the reproduction number – was between 0.9 and 1.1.
An R value between 0.8 and 1.0 means that, on average, every 10 people infected with coronavirus will infect between 8 and 10 other people.
The growth rate in England is now between -3% and -1% a day, meaning that the number of new infections is shrinking by between 1% and 3% each day.
The British Retail Consortium warned on Friday that there will be a significant disruption in the run-up to Christmas unless more delivery drivers are found in the next 10 days.
Ministers were due to meet for urgent talks on how to tackle the current shortage of HGV operators, which has already led to empty supermarket shelves.
A range of factors, including Brexit leading to the loss of EU drivers, the pandemic preventing driving tests, and existing problems within the haulage industry relating to pay and conditions, have led to the shortage of qualified lorry drivers.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC, said: “HGV drivers are the glue which hold our supply chains together.
“Without them, we are unable to move goods from farms to warehouses to shops.
“Currently, the UK faces a shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers, and it is consumers who ultimately suffer the consequences.
“Unless a solution can be found in the next 10 days, it is inevitable that we will see significant disruption in the run-up to Christmas.”
Elsewhere, the Ministry of Defence has granted a request to send around 100 military medics to Northern Ireland to support hospitals in need of support to cope with the number of COVID patients.
Sky News has learnt that service personnel are set to be deployed in the next few days and are expect to support Belfast City Hospital and Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.
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