The lockdown in March in the UK is thought to be the reason behind the huge boost in numbers as more paedophiles took to the internet to talk to children and commit sexual acts.
British police have been arresting between 400 and 450 people a month for associated offences.
And 300,000 people in the UK are thought to ‘pose a sexual threat to children’ warned the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The figures, which comes from intelligence pre-dating the coronavirus outbreak, reflects a new assessment of the threat and is far higher than previous estimates.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) said law enforcement was “struggling to keep up” with evolving methods of child sexual abuse being facilitated by the internet.
A report released by the IICSA said millions of indecent images of children were in circulation worldwide, and could be accessed from mainstream search engines in just three clicks.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the national policing lead for child protection, told the inquiry that up to 600 children were being safeguarded each month as a result.
“We are doing our best to ensure that our efforts are targeted against those individuals who will pose a contact risk,” Mr Bailey said.
“We can’t arrest our way out of the problem, and we have to look at a far more holistic approach … we are at saturation point.”
He called for formal consideration of programmes aiming to prevent paedophiles from looking at the images as a potential alternative to prosecution in some cases.
“I know it’s an unpalatable consideration for a lot of people, politically it’s very difficult, but I think we are dealing with an unprecedented challenge,” Mr Bailey said.
“All I see is the numbers growing, the scale of the threat growing, the number of children being abused growing and, actually, we should be having a public debate that says: what else can we do to try and meet the threat?”
The inquiry heard that while the UK hosts only a small amount of the material itself, it is the “the third greatest consumer in the world of the live streaming of abuse”.
The disturbing practice sees paedophiles pay as little as £1 to watch a child being abused live, often from the Philippines.
IICSA accused internet companies of being too reactive, and driven more by a desire to avoid reputational damage than to prioritise child protection.
It joined calls for firms to increase efforts to proactively remove uploaded child sex abuse images, including using automated programmes, before they can be accessed.
Share on your Social Networks