The government’s scientific advisory group has said it “does not have confidence” the R number is currently below the crucial figure of 1 in England.
The latest estimate puts the R rate – which refers to the number of people on average that an infected person passes the virus on to – at between 0.8-0.9.
In the North West, the R has risen from 0.7-1 last week to 0.8-1.1 this week.
There has also been a slight increase in the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in England, new data shows.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), between 20 and 26 July there were around 4,200 new infections in the community per day.
But the numbers are not enough evidence to say yet “with confidence” whether infection rates differ by region, the ONS has said.
Some lockdown restrictions have been reimposed in virus hotspots in the north of England following a spike in infections.
People in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire are now banned from meeting other households indoors, in a move described by Health Secretary Matt Hancock as “absolutely necessary”.
Meanwhile, the UK saw its highest daily total of COVID-19 cases for more than a month on Thursday.
A total of 846 new cases were reported, the most since 901 cases were announced on 28 June.
Cases: The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the outbreakRate: The number of cases per 100,000 peopleTwo weeks: The number of confirmed cases over the past fortnightTwo-weeks rate: The number of cases per 100,000 people over the past fortnight
The government has expressed concerns about a potential second wave of infections, with Boris Johnson warning Britons to be wary of a “really damaging second wave”.
The health secretary also said he was “worried” after seeing a “second wave starting to roll across Europe”.
© 2020 Sky UK
News – Coronavirus: R number goes up in England as data shows more people test positive for coronavirus