The United Kingdom is recording its highest spike in coronavirus cases since May – one week after children began returning to school.
As of Monday, the country had recorded 347,152 cases. Latest data from Johns Hopkins University shows that number jumped by more than 5000 by Tuesday morning (Australian time).
They are the highest daily figures since May 22 when 3287 cases were recorded, with Sunday (local time) the first 24-hour period when cases passed 2000 since the end of May.
It comes after most schools in England began a phased reopening on September 1 and September 2 following the summer holidays.
Students will return to a full-time program, with the autumn term expected to run until December 18.
The return of schools after lockdown has been called a pivotal moment, with fears that as children and teenagers mix, coronavirus transmission rates may begin to surge.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock conceded the recent rise in coronavirus cases was “concerning”.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “The cases are predominantly among younger people, but we’ve seen in other countries across the world and in Europe this sort of rise in the cases amongst younger people leading to a rise across the population as a whole.”
“It’s so important that people don’t allow this illness to infect their grandparents and to lead to the sorts of problems that we saw earlier in the year,” Mr Hancock said.
Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said most of the new cases were people tested in the community and that the situation was being monitored.
“There were broad increases in cases of COVID-19 across England and although no single area accounts for the overnight change, Birmingham had the largest increase in overnight cases and the majority of new cases were in the north of England,” she said.
“This is a reminder of the continued risk from this virus. People should continue to follow social distancing rules, wash their hands regularly and wear a face covering in enclosed spaces.”
Scotland recorded 208 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily increase in positive tests for more than 17 weeks.
The last time more people tested positive for COVID-19 in Scotland was May 8, when there were 225 new cases of infection.
Despite the sharp increase in cases, the number of deaths has not increased dramatically.
Two further deaths were reported on Sunday.