This appears to correspond with warnings from some experts that young people attending illegal house parties and non-socially distanced events are driving the uptick.

However, the Telegraph revealed this week that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) believes that youngsters forced to go back to work in Covid-unsecure hospitality jobs in bars and restaurants could be just as significant a factor.

The new figures are drawn from a cohort of up to 150,000 volunteers evenly distributed across the country, who undertook swab testing for current infection between August 4 and September 7.

Prevalence of the disease is now doubling every 7.7 days, with a national prevalence for England of 0.126 per cent, compared to 0.040 per cent up to August 8.

The data comes ahead of the Government’s first reimposition of national restrictions, due to start on Monday, which include a “rule of six” limit on family and social gatherings.

Prof  Paul Elliott, director of the Imperial programme, said: “Our large and robust dataset clearly shows a concerning trend in coronavirus infections, where cases are growing quickly across England and are no longer concentrated in key workers.

“What we are seeing is evidence of an epidemic in the community and not a result of increased testing capacity.

“This is a critical time and it’s vital that the public, our health system and policy-makers are aware of the situation as we cannot afford complacency.”

The weekly national infection survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) was also published on Friday.

While it corroborated the overall escalation of the situation portrayed by REACT, it suggested that infection rates are going down among people in their fifties.

Overall, the ONS data suggests that there are about 3,200 new cases a day in England. 

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