Coronavirus cases have been doubling every 29 days with one in 80 young people in England infected, the country’s largest Covid-19 study has found.
New infections reached 45,000 every day between September 18 and Monday this week, according to the React report.
A total of one in 170 people were infected with the virus in that timeframe – while in the north-west that was significantly higher at one in 100 people.
While infections had increased over all age groups and regions, the highest rates were among young people – one in 80 people aged between 18 and 24 had been infected.
The report was commissioned by DHSC and conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, which tested 175,000 volunteers across England.
It found the virus was doubling every 29 days and warned infections would continue to increase and result in “high levels of unnecessary death and illness” if the public did not abide by local lockdown and social distancing measures.
The coronavirus R rate published by Imperial is currently at 1.16 in England, with the highest rates in the north-west (1.27), Yorkshire (1.37) and the West Midlands (1.33).
That is lower than the official estimates by government scientists, which on Friday put the key figure at 1.2 to 1.5 both in England and across the UK.
The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), a subgroup of SAGE (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies), also said the growth rate was between 4% and 8% in England. The UK-wide growth rate is between 4% and 9%.
The Imperial College London study also found people of Asian and Black ethnicity are twice as likely to have the virus compared to white people, 0.73% and 0.90% compared to 0.45% in white participants.
Professor Paul Elliott, Director of the REACT programme at Imperial from the School of Public Health, said: “Our robust findings paint a concerning picture of the growing epidemic across England.
“While certain areas are worse affected, if left unabated then infection trends will follow nationwide and could lead to high levels of unnecessary death and illness from the disease.”
The findings come as the government said it “won’t hesitate to act” amid reports that new restrictions will be imposed next week.
A No.10 spokesperson said: “We have been clear that we are seeing cases rise across the country, especially in the north-east and north-west.
“And as we have been clear throughout the pandemic, we will continue to keep all that data under review and won’t hesitate to act in order to protect communities and save lives.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.