Nearly 100,000 people are catching coronavirus every day in England, a major study led by the Imperial College London suggests.
The pace of the epidemic is accelerating and estimates the number of people infected is now doubling every nine days, it adds.
The authors say we are at a “critical stage” and “something has to change”.
The REACT-1 project, which has been swabbing tens of thousands of people every week estimated there were around 96,000 people getting infected every day in England by October 25.
Imperial College London experts behind the research warned cases were just weeks away from surpassing levels seen during the darkest days of the pandemic in March and April. Previous projections have estimated there were slightly more than 100,000 daily cases in spring, which led to over 40,000 deaths in the first wave.
The study warned infections are doubling every nine days, suggesting there could be 200,000 daily cases by the first week of November.
Imperial researchers said it was possible that the recent wet and dreary weather had played a role in the surge in infections, by driving people indoors where the virus finds it easier to spread. But they warned it was more likely a small dip in adherence to social distancing rules across the board had opened the door for the highly infectious disease to spread more rapidly.