One in 85 people have coronavirus in the North East, new Government-backed research reveals today.

The number with the virus has increased since mid-September, but only slowly. Experts say that the virus is spreading rapidly in other parts of the country, but cases may be beginning to fall in our region.

Figures have been published by the Department of Health. They are the result of a Government-backed study by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI.

Nationwide, the findings show infections continued to rise across all regions between 16 and 25 October, with 128 people per 10,000 infected.

In the North East, 117 people out of 10,000 are believed to be infected. This is just over one in 85 people.

The figures refer to the whole North East region, including Teesside as well as Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, Northumberland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and County Durham.

It's based on tests carried out between October 16 and October 25. A previous study, based on testing from September 18 to October 5, found 106 out of every 10,000 people in the North East were infected, which means the number has increased.

But the rate of increase is far slower than elsewhere, and the infection rate actually doubled nationwide in the same time period.

The researchers who produced the data say that the virus may be in retreat in the North East.

They said in their report: "There is suggestion that the epidemic may be turning down in the North East, although there are still marked increases in prevalence amongst the most vulnerable population at ages 65 years and over. The epidemic is now increasing most rapidly in the Midlands and South."

More than 85,000 volunteers were tested in England, to examine the levels of infection in the general population.

The findings show infections continue to rise across all age groups and all regions in England, with the biggest increase in those aged 55-64.

The highest number of infections remain in the North West and Yorkshire and The Humber.

The main findings from the research, known as the REACT study, show that between 16 and 25 October:

Professor Paul Elliott, Director of the programme at Imperial from the School of Public Health, said: "These interim findings paint a concerning picture of the situation in England, where we’re seeing a nationwide increase in infection prevalence, which we know will lead to more hospitalisations and loss of life.

"We’re also detecting early signs that areas which previously had low rates of infection are following trends observed in the country’s worst-affected areas.

"Now more than ever we must all work together to curb further spread of the virus and avoid subsequent overwhelming of the health service."