The UK recorded its highest daily tally of new coronavirus infections on Thursday with a total of 6,634 new cases announced.
Forty new coronavirus deaths have also been recorded.
Despite the record amount of cases, the situation is still not as bad as the peak of the pandemic, because the improved testing regime is finding more sufferers. In April, Imperial College researchers suggested there were actually more than 100,000 new infections a day but many were not officially recorded. It is an increase of 456 from Wednesday’s figure of 6,178.
However, Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said the rise in new cases provides a “clear” signal and insisted people must follow the stricter measures announced this week in order to help control the virus.
She said: “This is the highest number recorded and a stark warning for us all. The signals are clear.
“Positivity rates are rising across all age groups and we’re continuing to see spikes in rates of admission to hospital and critical care.
“We must all follow the new measures that have been brought in to help control the virus and download the new NHS Covid-19 App which is the fastest way of knowing when you’re at risk.”
The Government also said a further 40 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Thursday, bringing the UK’s total deaths to 41,902.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 57,600 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said while science and medicine will help to lower the expected rise in deaths, the public must also play its part.
He said: “The rise in cases is yet further confirmation that the virus is spreading rapidly. This will result in increased pressure on hospitals, more serious illness and a rise in deaths which will bring tragedy.
“Scientific and medical advances will lower the toll. We all need to do our part.”
He added that while the latest daily cases figure is large, it is “only a fraction” of the cases in the early part of the pandemic.
“The fact that we will soon set a record of daily cases is because we did not measure in March,” he said.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said almost 10,000 people a day are contracting coronavirus, fewer than the 100,000 per day estimated during the spring peak.
It comes on the day that the UK launched its long-delayed Covid-19 smartphone app amid downbeat predictions of success for a track and trace system once confidently predicted to be "world beating" by prime minister Boris Johnson.
The app was planned for nationwide launch as part of a broader programme of coronavirus testing and control by June 1 but technical problems forced a prototype to be abandoned. The launch of the app for England and Wales on Wednesday is based on a software model developed by tech giants Google and Apple. Scotland and Northern Ireland have already rolled out versions because of the UK delays.
Mr Hancock played down expectations saying it was an “addition to all the other tools” at the government’s disposal to try to limit the worst impact of a second spike in cases.
“I’m not prepared to launch something that I don’t think is going to be effective,” he told the BBC. “That’s one of the reasons why we chose to wait until now to launch it.”
The government did not deny reports that students could be confined to their universities during the winter break to prevent the spread of the virus to older relatives when they return home. Hundreds of students in Glasgow, Scotland, have been forced to self-isolate after a university outbreak.
“I have learned not to rule things out,” said Mr Hancock of the winter campus lockdown. “I don’t want to have a situation like that and I very much hope we can avoid it.”
The government earlier in the week said that restaurants would close early and the return of fans to sports events would be delayed because of fears of a winter resurgence.
The new app, using Bluetooth technology, allows experts to build a picture of infections and alerts users to take steps to limit their exposure.
But there are potential problems of limited take-up with other countries finding that similar apps been used by just ten to 30 per cent of the population.
The issue of poor take-up could also harm attempts to immunise the population when a vaccine is finally found, according to a new study by University College London. One in five Britons say they are unlikely to get a jab highlighting concerning levels of mistrust around vaccinations.
It followed a 1990s scandal when a British doctor made a bogus link between a triple vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella and autism – which resulted in increased deaths from childhood measles when parents shunned the jab for their children.
The virus has had a disproportionate effect on ethnic minorities and new research warned that they could also face a greater economic hit from Covid-19.
Black, Asian and other groups are particularly at risk of rising debt and little relief from housing costs, according to think tank The Institute for Public Policy Research.