The number of people getting infected with coronavirus has fallen in the last week, official data shows - adding to a growing body of evidence suggesting the UK's crisis is slowing.
An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report released today estimated there were 8,400 daily cases of the disease in England in the week ending September 24.
This marks a 12.5 per cent fall from the 9,600 infection thought to have been occurring every day the week before.
The ONS described its findings as 'limited evidence' transmission of the virus 'may be levelling off following steep increases during August and September'.
But, because the study is only based on a few hundred positive swabs, the Government-run body said it is too early to say the UK is out of the woods yet.
The ONS report today is the first to report a dip in infections in the last two months, after cases started to rocket in August when lockdown was fully lifted. But it comes on the heels of a wave of statistics yesterday suggesting the UK's spike in transmission is finally starting to slow down.
There were 6,914 cases picked up through the Government's official testing programme yesterday - just 4.2 per cent higher than last Thursday. This was significant because cases had been almost doubling every week since late August.
A King's College London study also found the rise in daily new cases is only 23 per cent higher than last week, after it rose by more than twofold in the week before.
And the Government-funded REACT-1 project, carried out by Imperial College London, said there were signs that the R rate has fallen to around 1.1 now, from 1.7 in September, and that cases are now rising less steeply than they were a few weeks ago.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released today revealed there were 8,400 new cases of the disease every day this week, down from 9,600 last week
The ONS estimated around 116,000 people in England were infected with coronavirus between September 18 and 24, the equivalent of around one in 500 people.
This was up slightly on the previous estimate of 103,600 people – around 0.19 per cent of the population – for September 13 to 19.
The ONS said that in recent weeks there has been 'clear evidence' of an increase in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 - but that it appeared to have slowed in the last week.
Katherine Kent, co-head of analysis for the Covid-19 Infection Survey, said: 'While the evidence suggests that the increase in new cases may be levelling off after a sharp rise in August and September, it is too early to be certain at this stage.'
King's College London's weekly estimate of the number of people catching coronavirus in the UK suggests that the growth of the outbreak is slowing down, but there are still nearly 20,000 people getting infected each day.
The Covid Symptom Study, run in conjunction with ZOE, a health-tech team that runs the Covid Symptom Tracker app, estimates there are now 19,777 people getting infected each day across the UK.
This is a rise from the 16,130 daily infections prediction last week but the increase is smaller than it was between the previous two estimates.
The rise from September 24 to October 1 was 23 per cent, while between September 17 and 24 it more than doubled from 7,536 (a 114 per cent increase).
Some 14,837 of these cases are thought to be happening in England, with the majority in the North East and Yorkshire and the North West (a total of approximately 8,800).
A further 2,294 people are thought to be getting sick each day in Scotland, along with 1,331 in Wales and 1,315 in Northern Ireland.
The estimates are based on the results of 8,377 swab tests. And they suggest that the reproduction rate of the virus, the R, has fallen, too - to 1.2 in England, 1.3 in Scotland and 1.4 in Wales.
Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist and leader of the study, said: 'We are confident that this flattening in the data looks real and that this might be an early sign of infection rates slowing down.
'This may be due to a number of factors including social distancing and the "rule of six", but we can’t discount the role of less susceptible people and prior immunity in those exposed and the natural cycle of the virus.
'We are seeing nearly 50 per cent of our cases are coming from the under 30s, which is more than in the spring, which may explain why the pressures on the NHS are less.
'We still need to continue to work together to make sure this flattening off isn’t a small blip. As we head into winter we all need to be cautious and pay attention to the advice we are being given around local restrictions, social distancing and avoiding gathering in large groups.'
Over the last six weeks, the study analysed almost 300,000 test results from 336 randomly selected members of the public, whether they have symptoms or not.
The results were based on 419 positive tests and extrapolated to the wider population.
During the most recent week, between September 18 and 24, there were an estimated 6,400 people in Wales with