The number of people thought to be infected with coronavirus is as its highest level in around five months, with cases rising rapidly, according to new data.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which has analysed more than 450,000 swabs over the last six weeks from the public, regardless of whether they have symptoms, said there was an estimated average of 27,900 new cases per day of Covid-19 between October 2 and 8.
This is up 62% from an estimated 17,200 new cases per day for the period September 25 to October 1.
The ONS said cases were rising “rapidly”, with an estimated 336,500 people having coronavirus in the week to October 8, equating to around one in 160 people.
The figures represent a jump from 224,400 people in the previous week of September 25 to October 1.
Ruth Studley, head of analysis for the Covid-19 infection survey, said: “Our latest data shows infections continue to rise, with more than a third of a million people estimated to be infected – the highest levels we have seen since the survey began in May.
“Like previous weeks, infections continue to be highest in the north of England and among older teenagers and young adults.”
The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.
It comes as the Medical Research Council (MRC) biostatistics unit at Cambridge University published new predictions on Monday on how fast the epidemic is growing across the country.
It said around 47,000 Covid-19 infections are occurring daily across England, with deaths expected to hit 240 to 690 per day by October 26.
The figures are fed to the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which provides real-time information to the Government through the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), and to regional Public Health England (PHE) teams.
The Cambridge University researchers estimated cases are doubling in under seven days, with a “substantial proportion” of those being asymptomatic.
They said: “Our current estimate of the number of infections occurring each day across England is 47,000.
“We predict that the number of deaths each day is likely to be between 240 and 690 on October 26.”
They said the daily number of infections was within the range of 28,900 to 74,900 per day, with the best estimate being 47,000.
They added the estimated growth rate for England is 0.09 per day.
“This means that the number of infections grows by 9% each day and it translates into a doubling in number in under one week,” they said.
“The central estimates for the number of new infections is particularly high in the North West and the North East and Yorkshire (17,600 and 10,700 infections per day, respectively), followed by London and the Midlands (5,450 and 5,720, respectively).
“Note that a substantial proportion of these daily infections will be asymptomatic.”
The latest Government figures showed 18,980 lab-confirmed new coronavirus cases as of 9am on Thursday, while a further 138 deaths were reported.
Experts say lab-confirmed cases do not represent the true scale of the epidemic.
Meanwhile, Professor Graham Medley, an expert in infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of Sage, has said he believes that in terms of healthcare, “some areas are going to be back to the same kind of position they were at the end of March”.