The reproduction rate of coronavirus infection in the UK has reduced to 1.2-1.5 for the seven days to 9 October from 1.3-1.6 in the previous week.
Experts on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) published the latest figures on Friday.
The site said: “It is SAGE’s expert view… that this week’s estimates are reliable, and that there is still widespread growth of the epidemic across the country.”
On Thursday the latest data from the test and trace scheme showed the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the UK had increased by 56% in a week.
The growth rate of infection was stated as between +4% and +9%.
The R rate last Friday was 1.3-1.6, with an estimated growth rate of infection of between +5% and +9%.
The news comes as it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people living in coronavirus ‘hotspots’ could be told to shield this winter to stop the virus “getting out of control”.
Ministers are expected to outline a three-tier lockdown system next week, which could see vulnerable people being told to stay at home.
Figures are based on epidemiological data such as hospital admissions, ICU admissions and deaths, meaning it can take up to three weeks for changes in the spread of disease to be reflected in the estimated reproduction rate due to the time delay between initial infection and the need for hospital care.
Regional leaders have criticised the government for not consulting them ahead of imposing local lockdowns, with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham saying he would challenge any closures.
And writing in the Daily Telegraph, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the government had “lost control of the virus” and urged ministers to “get a grip”.
Boris Johnson has continued to encourage people to follow the rule of six and ‘hands, face, space’ guidelines, insisting as long as people obey the rules the country will be able to avoid another full lockdown.
On Friday, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey suggested there were almost a quarter of a million people in the UK infected with coronavirus.
This was nearly double the 116,600 people with COVID the week before.
Coronavirus: what happened today
Click here to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter