Britain reports record number of new COVID-19 infections, 691 deaths

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain reported a record number of new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday as it battles a surge in cases caused by a variant strain of the disease.

Official figures showed there had been 36,804 new cases and a further 691 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, both up markedly from a day before.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his scientific advisers said on Saturday a variant of the coronavirus, which could be up to 70% more transmissible, was spreading rapidly in Britain, although it was not thought to be more deadly or to cause more serious illness.

The authorities have since brought in tight social mixing restrictions measures for London, southeast England and Wales while plans to ease curbs over Christmas across the nation have been dramatically scaled back or scrapped altogether.

Many countries have also closed their borders to Britain due to concern over the mutated strain of the coronavirus.

Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel said ministers had been very proactive over bringing in preventative measures to encourage people to stay at time throughout the Christmas period.

"The government has consistently throughout this year been ahead of the curve in terms of proactive measures with regards to coronavirus," she told BBC radio.

(Reporting by William James; editing by Michael Holden)