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Photo: Tolga Akmen - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The U.K. reported 1,325 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, marking its highest daily death toll yet.

Why it matters: The massive spike in deaths is in part fueled by a highly transmissible COVID-19 variant that's spreading rapidly throughout the United Kingdom and threatening to overwhelm hospital systems.

Between the lines: The figure is even worse on a per capita basis than the record 4,000 COVID-19 deaths reported in 24 hours in the U.S. On Friday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a "major incident" because of the virus, which has infected 1 in 30 Londoners.

The big picture: The U.K, which is in full lockdown for at least the next six weeks, was the first country in the world to approve and begin administering both the Pfizer vaccine and Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine.

  • Earlier Friday, British regulators cleared the Moderna vaccine for emergency use.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that while the new coronavirus variant is more transmissible, there is "no evidence to suggest that the variant has any impact on the severity of disease or vaccine efficacy."

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Updated 13 mins ago - World

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison

An anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar.Photo: Hkun Lat/Getty Images

A Myanmar court sentenced the country's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Monday to four years in prison on charges of "inciting public unrest" and breaking COVID-19 protocols, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: It's the first of several verdicts that could result in the 76-year-old Nobel laureate being imprisoned for the rest of her life.