More than 100,000 people had coronavirus in england in the week to september 19 and the growth in new infections rose sharply over the past seven days, according to official estimates.
The virus is spreading fast throughout the uk and on friday authorities announced restrictions on movement in several cities and discouraged people from crossing the border between northern ireland and the irish republic.
According to the latest analysis by the office for national statistics, in the week to september 19, 103,600 people in england, one in 500 of the population, carried the virus. this is up from 59,800 the previous week.
The report estimated that there were about 9,600 new cases a day in england, with infection rates highest in northern regions.
Separate figures released by government scientists on friday indicated that across the uk the number of new coronavirus infections was growing at between 4 per cent and 8 per cent every day, up from 2 per cent to 7 per cent the previous week.
The report also found that the r number, the average number of new cases generated by an infected person, was between 1.2 and 1.5 on friday, an increase from 1.1 to 1.4 last week.
All regions of england now have a r number that is higher than 1, and all have positive growth rates, according to the report by the government office for science.
Separately, a report from public health england suggested a possible link between going out for a meal and contracting covid-19 a finding that could raise questions about the governments vaunted eat out to help out scheme over the summer.
The report said that since august 10, people who tested positive were being asked about places they had been and activities undertaken in the days before becoming unwell.
It said eating out was the most commonly reported activity in the 2-7 days prior to symptom onset. although this does not describe confirmed sources of infection, the information may be helpful to indicate possible places where transmission is happening.
In an attempt to curb rising infections, health secretary matt hancock imposed restrictions on leeds in west yorkshire, wigan and stockport in greater manchester, and blackpool in lancashire, covering 1.5m people.
The latest data shows a sharp increase in incidence rates per 100,000 population in leeds, blackpool, wigan and stockport, which are significantly above the national average, he said.
In these areas people will not be allowed to gather in a home or garden with any other household unless in a support bubble.
This replicates rules in local lockdowns areas across the north and midlands, as well as the whole of scotland and northern ireland. in wales, health minister vaughan gething announced that restrictions would be put in place in cardiff, swansea and llanelli from sunday.
The measures include a ban on indoor household mixing and forbidding people to enter or leave the areas without a reasonable excuse such as needing to travel for work or education.
The number of people covered by local lockdowns in the uk is now close to 20m, almost a third of the population.
Meanwhile, london was added to the coronavirus watchlist, the first step towards imposing restrictions.
In an interview with the guardian, london mayor sadiq khan said he had asked prime minister boris johnson to ban household visits within the capital.
He told the newspaper: one of the things that i said to the prime minister is: i think we should be following whats happening around the country and stopping social mixing of households, and i say that with a heavy heart.
Public health chiefs in ireland and northern ireland urged people not to cross the land border they share in a bid to tackle escalating coronavirus infections in counties on the frontier.
The plea reflects mounting anxiety in dublin about rising cases in county donegal, where the irish government imposed new restrictions on thursday, and concern in the north about cases in counties londonderry, also known asderry, tyrone and fermanagh.
Many people in these areas cross the border daily for work or family reasons, spurring concern about the potential to increase covid-19 transmission.
In scotland, first minister nicola sturgeon on friday told students that they would not be subject to special coronavirus restrictions after this weekend, an assurance that followed widespread confusion and protest about apparently tough measures announced by scottish universities on thursday.
In a bid to stem outbreaks linked to student accommodation, sector body university scotland had said its member institutions would order students not to socialise outside their households, adding that repeat offenders could have their studies halted.
The measures included a complete ban for this weekend on visiting any bars or other hospitality venues. but ms sturgeon told a briefing on friday that students would actually be allowed to socialise outside their accommodation in groups of up to six people in two households.
Reporting by andy bounds in huddersfield, jasmine cameron-chileshe, anna gross and sarah neville in london, arthur beesley in dublin and mure dickie in edinburgh