Coronavirus cases in the UK have shot up by their highest daily amount since the beginning of January.
As the deadly bug continues to sweep across the UK, a further 54,674 people have tested positive, according to official government data.
That is the highest daily total in six months since January 15, when 55,761 caught the virus.
Another 41 people died from Covid-19 and 740 were hospitalised, bringing the weekly total of admitted patients to 4,313 – up 39% in a week.
Today’s figures come amid a days of surging cases.
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Yesterday 51,870 more were reported across the country, a rise of 45 per cent from a week ago.
Official data shows that 49 deaths were also clocked up on Friday.
While previous spikes in cases and deaths had led to the country locking down more securely, this time things are different.
The government seems set on ploughing ahead with its plan to ease restrictions near totally in England on Monday.
The mask mandate will be lifted, socially distancing measures are to be scrapped and uncontrolled dancing will be allowed once more in clubs.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following different timetables.
Not everyone is wild about the prospect of the restrictions being lifted however.
Mr Hunt said the situation facing the NHS is “very serious” with rapidly increasing numbers of hospital admissions.
“The warning light on the NHS dashboard is not flashing amber, it is flashing red,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
His warning came as one scientist advising the Government said the country could be facing a “protracted period” of rising cases running into the autumn.
Professor John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said new infections could reach 100,000 a day within weeks.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly said he wants the lifting of lockdown on so-called “freedom day” to be “irreversible”, but in recent days ministers have begun to sound more cautious.
While social-distancing rules in England will come to an end, Government guidelines advise face masks should still be worn in enclosed spaces such as in shops and on public transport, while pubs and bars should be table service only.
Mr Hunt, chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said the way people behave as controls end will be crucial in determining the path of the pandemic over the coming months.
He pointed to the examples of Israel and the Netherlands, which have been forced to reintroduce controls despite high levels of vaccination like the UK.
“Covid hospital patients are doubling every two weeks. That means we are heading for 10,000 Covid hospital patients by the end of August, which is about 20 times higher than this time last year,” he said.
“I think coming into September we are almost certainly going to see infections reach a new daily peak going above the 68,000 daily level which was the previous daily record in January.
“If they are still going up as the schools are coming back I think we are going to have to reconsider some very difficult decisions. How we behave over the next few weeks will have a material difference.”
Prof Edmunds said that without the social-distancing measures which brought the first two waves of the pandemic under control the virus would continue to spread.
“I think this wave of the epidemic will be quite long and drawn out,” he told the Today programme.
“My hunch is that we are looking at a high level of incidence for a protracted period right through the summer and probably through much of the autumn.
“We started easing restrictions before everybody was vaccinated. That is going to lead to infections in the unvaccinated people – primarily, in this instance, the younger individuals.
“We are at about 50,000 (infections) a day now. The epidemic has been doubling roughly every two weeks, and so if we allow things as they are for another couple of weeks you could expect it to get to 100,000 cases a day.”