The reproduction rate of coronavirus infection in the UK has risen and is now between 1.3-1.6, official figures have confirmed.
Government figures show the growth rate of infection has also continued to rise and could be as high as 9%.
Experts on the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) published the latest figures on Friday.
An R number between 1.3 and 1.6 means that on average every 10 people infected will infect between 13 and 16 other people.
The latest growth rate of between +5% and +9% means the number of new infections is growing by 5% to 9% every day.
The government website said: “The UK estimates of R and growth rate are averages over very different epidemiological situations and should be regarded as a guide to the general trend rather than a description of the epidemic state.
“It is SAGE’s expert view... that this week’s estimates are reliable, and that there is widespread growth of the epidemic across the country.”
An estimated 116,600 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between September 18 and 24, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday.
This was the equivalent of around 0.21% of the population, up slightly on the previous estimate of 103,600 people – around 0.19% of the population – for September 13 to 19.
The ONS said that in recent weeks there has been “clear evidence” of an increase in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19.
The news comes after more areas in Wales and the north of England were put under local lockdown to try to stem the spread of the virus.
The rate last week was between 1.2 and 1.5.
Figures are based on epidemiological data such as hospital admissions, ICU admissions and deaths, meaning it can take up to three weeks for changes in the spread of disease to be reflected in the estimated reproduction rate due to the time delay between initial infection and the need for hospital care.
The government has continued to encourage people to follow the guidelines with Boris Johnson insisting as long as people obeyed the rules the country would be able to avoid another full lockdown.
Earlier in the week it was suggested that local lockdowns were having a positive effect on reducing case numbers.
A study found restrictions across the north of England may be pushing down the growth of the coronavirus epidemic.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the React study – the largest research of its kind in England – said new rules appeared to be taking effect but warned that all age groups were contracting the virus.
Elliott told Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the very recent data, and we’re talking about people who did swabs last Saturday, it does seem that the rate of increase of the infection may have slowed a bit.
“So that does suggest that perhaps some of the recent announcements and the biggest focus again on people paying attention to the public health message, which is social distancing, handwashing, face covers and getting tested if they have symptoms and then isolation, seems to be beginning to work.”
Prof Elliott said the numbers of people who now have the virus has “grown substantially” but the growth appeared to be slowing.
However, Friday’s data showed an increase in R rates across the country.
The east of England has the lowest growth rate, with London and the north east showing the highest rates of infection.
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