The reproduction number for coronavirus – the R value – has dropped to between 1 and 1.2 across the UK, Government scientists say.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the Government, said the R continues to fall, with its current prediction representing the situation over the last few weeks.
But it warned that deaths and demand for healthcare will carry on unless R drops below one for an extended period of time.
If the R value is above one then the Covid-19 epidemic continues to grow, but if it is below one it shows the outbreak is in retreat.
For the past few weeks, Sage has put the R at between 1.1 and 1.3.
Sage said the number of new infections is growing by between 1% and 3% every day.
A statement said: “Sage is confident that the epidemic has continued to grow in England over recent weeks.
“Although there is some evidence that the rate of growth in some parts of the country may be slowing, levels of disease are very high in these areas; significant levels of healthcare demand and mortality will persist until R is reduced to and remains well below one for an extended period of time.”
It comes as daily confirmed coronavirus cases jumped by 46% to 33,470 on Thursday.
Some officials have suggested the increase – the highest to date – is as a result of people going out and socialising just before the current lockdown period began on November 5.
NHS medical director Stephen Powis played down the impact of the rise at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday.
He said it was “important to look at the number of cases reported over a number of days and not just take one day in isolation”.
A further 563 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus as of Thursday.