The coronavirus pandemic continued to grow in England last week, with the R rate creeping above one for the first time in a month.
The R rate – which measures how quickly the pandemic is growing – is between 1.0 and 1.1, according to the UK Health Security Agency.
It comes as 756,900 people in England, or one in 70, tested positive for the virus on any given day in the week leading up to August 20, a jump of nine per cent compared to the 698,100 figure seven days earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Across England, 1.39 per cent of people had Covid, but as many as 1.8 per cent of people tested positive in the worst-hit parts of the country.
Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West, London and the East Midlands all had infection rates higher than the national average.
And up to 3.5 per cent of school-aged children had the virus, amid fears that cases will surge as children head back to the classroom in England and Wales next week.
Covid cases in Scotland more than doubled last week after lessons resumed, leading First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to warn there would be another lockdown if hospital admissions followed the same trend.
Experts warned MailOnline that the countries south of the border should expect to see a similar spike.
Data from the HSA revealed the R rate may be as high as 1.1 nationally and reaching 1.2 in parts of the country.
The figure can be used as a guide as a general trend of the outbreak in the country, with a rate above one meaning the outbreak is growing.
An R rate of 1 to 1.1 means on average, every 10 infected with Covid will pass the virus on to 10 or 11 others.
And the pandemic growth rate in England is between zero and two per cent, according to the HSA, meaning the number of new infections could be rising by two per cent every day.
But the figures represent the transmission of the virus two to three weeks earlier, giving a rearview mirror view of the outbreak.
This is because of the delay in someone being infected, developing Covid symptoms and requiring NHS care.
And the gold-standard ONS data – which is used by ministers to track the state of the outbreak and is based on around 180,000 nose and throat swabs taken across the UK every fortnight – showed infection levels rose across the UK.
In England, the proportion of people testing positive for Covid continued to be highest in Yorkshire and the Humber (1.8 per cent) and the North West (1.6 per cent).
In London, 1.5 per cent of people were infected in the most recent week, compared to 1.4 per cent one week earlier.
Cases were also on the rise in the East Midlands (1.4 per cent), the South East (1.3 per cent) and West Midlands (to 1.3 per cent).
Meanwhile, infection levels stayed static in the North East (1.3 per cent) and dropped in the East of England (1.2 per cent) and the South West (0.9 per cent).
And 3.5 per cent of 16 to 24-year-old tested positive, the highest out of any age group, with cases shooting up from 2.9 per cent one week earlier.
The figure equates to one in 30 people in the age group testing positive.
And cases also increased among 11 to 15-year-olds, with 2.5 per cent testing positive, compared to 2.3 per cent in the previous seven days.
Cases fell among those aged 25 to 34, as well as in children aged two to 10, but increased in all age groups over 35.
It comes as the UK is set to have its biggest weekend of live music in two years, with more than 100,000 people attending Reading and Leeds music festivals and some 40,000 going to All Points East in London.
Susan Hopkins, PHE strategy response director and Test and Trace Chief Medical Advisor said: ‘Festivals are a great opportunity for people to come together after what has been an incredibly difficult year and we want everyone to enjoy themselves.
‘However, it’s important to know that at least 1 in 50 young people currently have Covid.
‘Therefore, do a test before you go, wear a face covering if you’re travelling to and from the festival if you’re using public transport and socialise outside as much as possible.
‘If you test positive or have any symptoms then do not attend.’
She added: ‘It’s especially important to be cautious when you leave the festival and when you get home as you may well have caught Covid while you’ve been away.
‘Make sure you take an LFD test when you get home and then test twice a week after having mixed with a large group of people, as you could have Covid without having symptoms.
‘Try and avoid seeing older or more vulnerable relatives so that you don’t pass anything on.’
Meanwhile, Covid infections increased across the rest of the UK.
In Scotland, 36,700 people tested positive for the virus on any given day in the week ending August 20, equating to 0.7 per cent of people, or one case per 140 people.
Seven days earlier, on the week ending August 14, just 25,900 were infected, equating to one in 200 people.
But the ONS warned the trend for Scotland is less certain than England, because the sample size of participants is smaller.
It follows schools reopening across Scotland for the autumn term last week. In England and Wales, schools broke up later, so do not return until next week.
The rising figures caused Ms Sturgeon to warn that Scots could be dragged back into tougher coronavirus restrictions amid the biggest surge in cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
The First Minister earlier this week raised the prospect of reintroducing some curbs despite the successful vaccine rollout.
She also said that existing regulations, including mandatory face masks and limits on capacities at major events, are likely to be extended again next week.
And cases also appeared to be on the rise in Wales, with 25,200 people being infected in the most recent week, compared to 23,500 in the previous set of figures.
Last week, one in 120 people in the country were infected with Covid, around 0.83 per cent of the population, the ONS estimated.
Infection rates were highest in Northern Ireland, where 2.36 per cent of the population tested positive, around one in every 40 individuals. Some 43,300 people were infected, up from 35,300 one week earlier.
used for estimating positivity rates and incidence Since October 2020, approximately 150,000 people tested per fortnight in England, 15,000 in Scotland, 9,000 in Wales and 5,000 in Northern Ireland.
The ONS figures are also a lagging indicator due to how the estimates are made. People can test positive for several weeks after getting infected.
Whereas official daily figures look at new cases, and offer the most up-to-date view of the true state of the outbreak.