The number of coronavirus cases in the UK is surging by more than 17,000 a day, official figures show.
Fears that the virus is spiralling out of control will be fuelled after a further 77 people died within 28 days of contracting the killer infection.
The UK’s stark death toll stands at 42,592, The Department for Health and Social Care said.
Weekly data from the Office for National Statistics warns 224,400 people had the virus in the week leading up to October 1, up from 116,000 a week earlier.
This week's figure is the highest since records started in May.
Today's report, made using data from the two weeks up to October 1, warns “the number of infections has increased rapidly in recent weeks”, and official tests show cases continued to rise in the first week of October meaning next week's estimate will likely be higher again.
Boris Johnson is battling to stem a second wave of the virus with a number of local lockdowns in place in northern England.
But damning figures show that there are as many as 45,000 new infections a day as the resurgence of virus could engulf the country.
The study, by Imperial College London, showed that 1 in 170 people in England had the virus between September 19 and October 5, with 45,000 cases a day.
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It also found an eight-fold increase in infections among people aged over 65, compared to a previous report covering Aug. 20 to Sept. 8.
“Our robust findings paint a concerning picture of the growing epidemic across England,” said Paul Elliott, of Imperial’s School of Public Health.
“While certain areas are worse affected, if left unabated then infection trends will follow nation-wide and could lead to high levels of unnecessary death and illness from the disease.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the country has reached a "perilous moment" in the course of the coronavirus pandemic, saying he was “very worried” by the ongoing rise in new cases.
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"I am very worried about the growth in the number of cases, especially in the North West and the North East of England, parts of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and parts of Yorkshire," he told the NHS Providers annual conference.
"In parts of the country the situation is again becoming very serious.”
Number 10 is set to roll out a three-tier lockdown system in a desperate bid to drive numbers down.
Pubs and restaurants – which are being blamed by some for rises in cases – could be forced to close under the new system.
Each part of England would be placed under the appropriate tier depending how bad the virus is locally – and could move up or down if virus rates get better or worse.
The most drastic tier would see hospitality shut and a ban of people mixing indoors, with the middle tier restricting households mixing but keeping pubs and restaurants open.
Tier one would enforce the current blanket restrictions in place, such as a the rule of six and 10pm curfew.
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