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The UK's R rate has risen to between 1.0 and 1.4, following household mixing at Christmas, according to government scientists.
The figure was released by the government's SAGE committee three days after England was plunged into a national lockdown to tackle surging new cases.
It means that every 10 infected people are passing the virus to up to 14 others.
When R was last updated on December 23, it was between 1.1 and 1.3.
Department of Health data shows 400,640 people have tested positive for Covid in seven days, a 33 per cent increase in a week.
Yesterday was the second deadliest day since the start of the pandemic, with 1,162 coronavirus fatalities confirmed – the highest since April.
Earlier today the Office for National Statistics said up to three in every five coronavirus cases in England are now associated with a new mutant strain.
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And it estimated that one in 50 people in the country had the virus last week.
The R rate is estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.5 in the South West, while Sage believes it is between 1.1 and 1.4 in London, the South East, the Midlands and the North East and Yorkshire.
The North West is estimated to have an R rate of 1.0 to 1.4.
Sage said it is still too early to tell if Tier 4 or the national lockdown has impacted the speed the virus is spreading.
It said in a statement: "R is a lagging indicator and so these estimates cannot account for the impact of recent policy changes or changes in transmission that have not yet been reflected in epidemiological data.
"This includes any changes that might have occurred over the festive period or the lockdown in England, announced on 5 January."
Earlier today the Office for National Statistics said three in every five Covid cases are linked to the new mutant strain
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
61% of all Covid cases in England associated with new variant as 1 in 50 have virus
ONS statisticians said 61 per cent of cases in England's community were "compatible" with the new, more transmissible strain between December 28 and January 2.
That included 81 per cent in London, 78 per cent in the East of England, 67 per cent in the South East, 53 per cent in the South West, 48 per cent in the East Midlands, 45 per cent in the West Midlands and 40 per cent in the North West.
Estimates were lowest in Northern Ireland (33 per cent), the North East (30 per cent), Yorkshire and the Humber (27 per cent), Scotland (22 per cent) and Wales (5 per cent).
But the ONS said there was "considerable uncertainty" about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It said: "In England, the percentage testing positive and compatible with the new variant have increased more rapidly since the beginning of December."
Separate figures released this morning by the Zoe Covid Symptom Study found that nearly 70,000 new symptomatic cases are occurring each day.
London and the South East currently have the highest rates in the UK, data from the Zoe Covid Symptom Study shows
The number of new symptomitic Covid cases rose 27% in a week
(Image: Robin Utrecht/REX/Shutterstock)
This is up from 55,000 a week earlier – a 27 per cent rise.
In London, experts now believe one in 42 people have symptomatic Covid-19 – giving it a rate of 2,380 cases per 100,000 people.
This figure is one in 53 in Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea, and one in 72 in Kent & Medway.
Meanwhile, the safest places in the UK are currently, Devon, the Humber, and Somerset & Bath and North East Somerset.
It comes after England entered its third national lockdown until at least mid-February – while the government races to vaccinate the 15million most vulnerable by February 15.
This afternoon London Mayor Sadiq Khandeclared a major incident amid fears the NHS will be overwhelmed.
He said: “The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control.
“The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared to the peak of the pandemic last April.
“Our heroic doctors, nurses and NHS staff are doing an amazing job, but with cases rising so rapidly, our hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed. The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically.
“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die."