Highest number of coronavirus infections since May after 3,500 test positive

The number of new coronavirus cases in the UK have soared by 3,539 in the past 24 hours – the highest daily rise for four months.

The huge jump means a total of 361,677 people have tested positive for Covid-19 since the pandemic began, with the number of new infections rising each day.

Yesterday cases increased by 2,919 and on Wednesday 2,659 people were recorded as having contracted the disease.

The number of new deaths remain low however, with another six recorded in the past 24 hours, the Department of Health said.

The jump comes on a day of dramatic developments as ministers desperately seek to fight off a second wave.

On Friday the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said infections in England have soared by 60% in recent weeks, with 3,200 new cases every day in the first week of September.

Areas in the Midlands and the North-West have seen the most dramatic rise in cases.

Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihul were hit with news of local lockdown restrictions today, with a ban on households mixing coming into force on Tuesday.

The whole of Merseyside could also face a lockdown after it was put on Public Health England’s watch list due to rising rates there.

Figures show the whole of the UK is facing a resurgence.

The R value has officially risen above one for the first time since early March, meaning the epidemic is growing.

R represents the average number of people each coronavirus patient goes on to infect. When the figure is above 1, it’s feared that an outbreak can grow exponentially.

The government said the reproduction number across the UK is now between 1.0 and 1.2.

In England, the figure is highest in London and the North West where R is between 1.1 and 1.3 in both regions.

Academics at Imperial College London have predicted the R could actually be as high as 1.7, based on the results of 150,000 tests carried out on volunteers.

Their data suggests the virus is doubling every seven to eight days.

New laws are being introduced on Monday in a bid to slow down the virus. Gatherings of more than six people are set to become illegal both indoors and outdoors, with rule breakers facing a fine of at least £100.

Ministers have blamed rising infection rates on young people socialising and households not sticking to social distancing when they mix.

Though the virus is growing, it is still at much lower levels across the UK than at the peak of the pandemic in April.

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