Coronavirus is now surging through the community in England, damning official figures show today.
Around 1 in 1,400 people had the virus in the week to September 5, the Office for National Statistics said.
That works out at around 3,200 new cases per day, a range of 2,000 to 4,600.
The ONS confirmed cases in those aged 17 to 34 are rising – even though those in over-50s are stable or declining.
By comparison in the week to August 25, just 1 in 2,000 people in the community in England were estimated to have Covid-19.
And there were thought to be around 2,000 new cases per day, a range of 1,100 to 3,200.
It comes as scientists are braced for official figures that are likely to show ‘R’ – the number of people each Covid-19 sufferer infects – is definitely over 1 for the first time since lockdown.
The data on cases come from the ONS’s Infection Survey Pilot, which is seen as the most reliable measure of how coronavirus is spreading in the community.
Unlike regular testing figures, it uses a formula to estimate the total incidence of coronavirus – regardless of whether people have tested positive or not.
It also looks only at the community, so excludes places like hospitals, care homes and other “institutional” settings like prisons.
“Evidence suggests that the incidence rate for England has increased in recent weeks,” the ONS said.
“In recent weeks, there has been an increase in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 aged 17 to 24 years and 25 to 34 years.
“Whereas the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 aged 50 years and over appears to be stable or declining.”
Previously the Survey had warned cases were picking up since a low point at the end of July.
However, that intial rise in July then levelled off and remained steady throughout most of August.
As recently as last week, the ONS said the incidence rate “remained unchanged” to August 25.
However, cases have not risen in the same way in Wales, according to the ONS. Around 1 in 2,200 people in Wales were thought to have the virus in the week to August 25. In the week to September 5, that fell to 1 in 2,600 people.
It comes after Boris Johnson announced a legal ban on more than six people meeting socially in England from Monday.
The Prime Minister said he was forced to act after a surge in people testing positive.
Similar rules will be introduced in Wales and Scotland – though in Scotland, children under 12 will not count towards the six-person limit.
In England, workplaces, schools and universities, households larger than six, and weddings and funerals will be exempt.