New COVID cases across the UK have reached their highest level for six months.
Dozens of areas of the country are now seeing case rates of more than 500 cases per 100,000 people amid fears the government's plan to lift restrictions will cause another crisis for the NHS.
The UK reported almost 50,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest since 15 January, with cases up 32% in the past seven days compared to the previous week.
Despite the rise in cases, the government is pressing ahead with its plan to lift almost all restrictions in England on Monday.
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The rapid growth of the virus means there are now 41 places in the country reporting seven-day case rates of more than 500 per 100,000 people.
The North East has emerged as the UK's coronavirus hotspot – the region as a whole recorded 835.8 cases per 100,000 people in the week to 11 July.
The place with the highest case rate is South Tyneside with 1,398 cases per 100,000 – the only local area where the figure is above 1,000.
Sunderland, Hartlepool, North East Lincolnshire, Gateshead and Middlesborough all have cases above 900 per 100,000 people.
Middlesborough has seen its cases skyrocket 119.5% compared to the previous week.
The highest weekly increase is in Allerdale which has seen its cases rise 257% to 562 per 100,000.
The full list of the 41 areas are listed at the bottom of this page, while the map below demonstrates the differing case rates across the UK. The darker shades of brown show where infections are highest.
Nationally according to the government the cases rate is 336.7 per 100,000 people.
Deaths and hospitalisations have also been rising in recent days with 582 people admitted on Wednesday, the highest since early March.
Hospitalisations have risen by 46.8% in the past seven days compared to the previous week and deaths are up 47.7%.
Doctors have warned the rise in cases should not be underestimated and said the decision to end mandatory masks was particularly worrying.
The government has insisted 19 July is the best date to lift restrictions in order to avoid more problems with lifting them during winter and in school term time.
Ministers have conceded cases may reach very high levels, but say the link between infections and hospitalisations has been dramatically weakened.
Modelling carried out for the government’s Sage advisory group by Imperial College London concluded that the worst-case scenario arising from the PM's decision to press on with Stage 4 of the lockdown roadmap could be 115,800 deaths by June 2022.
The authors were clear that the projections are highly uncertain due to unknown factors, such as how well vaccines protect against deaths from COVID and how much people will mix after restrictions are lifted.
The most optimistic scenario in Imperial College's model found that there could be fewer than 10,000 deaths as a result of Stage 4 lockdown easing.
Here are the 41 UK areas with more than 500 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people
South Tyneside 1398.2
North East Lincolnshire 938.2
Newcastle upon Tyne 877.1
Redcar and Cleveland 832.7
County Durham 766.1
North Tyneside 737.3
North Warwickshire 654.3
Dundee City 591.3
Bristol, City of 556.4
High Peak 524.5
North West Leicestershire 513.5
St. Helens 500.6
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