Researchers from Imperial College London who studied 143,000 randomly selected people found that 1.58 per cent were positive for the virus between 6 and 15 January. In London the figure was 2.8 per cent.
They say infection levels may have risen in early January, despite the lockdown beginning on 6 January, because people's activity increased after the Christmas holiday ended.
The report’s data is more up to date than the government’s daily case figures, the scientists claim, because it does not rely on those being tested developing symptoms.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has announced that the NHS is vaccinating people against Covid-19 at a rate of 200 jabs each minute, adding that 4.6 million people had now received a total of five million doses.