England’s “R” number is estimated to have risen to between 1.0 and 1.2, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.
It comes just a day after the UK’s daily infections passed the 50,000 mark as ministers faced pressure to introduce fresh restrictions.
An R number between 1.0 and 1.2 means that for every 10 people infected, they will on average infect between 10 and 12 other people. Any R rate above one means the epidemic is growing.
Last week R was estimated between 0.9 and 1.1. The daily growth of infections was estimated between +1 per cent and +3 per cent, up from -1 per cent and +2 per cent the previous week.
UKHSA said regional estimates of R and growth rate had been paused while it investigated the impact of incorrect negative PCR test results on estimates in the South West, South East and London following an issue in a lab, which was suspended last week.
Separate statistics showed that 1 in 55 people in private households in England had Covid in the week to October 16 - up from one in 60 the previous week.
At the peak of the second wave in early January, around one in 50 were estimated to have the virus.
The figures come as ministers come under pressure to introduce “Plan B” restrictions to curb the rise in infections.
On Thursday, Boris Johnson acknowledged the numbers were “high” but said they were “within the parameters” forecast by scientists advising the Government.
His comments followed calls from the NHS Confederation and the British Medical Association (BMA) for ministers to activate their winter Plan B for England amid fears the health service could be overwhelmed.
Mr Johnson insisted his government was following the scientific advice. He said that the autumn and winter plan “always predicted that cases would rise around about now”, adding: “We’re certainly seeing that.
“We’re seeing high levels of infection but they’re not outside the parameters of what was predicted.”