Covid-19 R value drops to below 1 as SAGE says epidemic is ‘shrinking’ in England

5 February 2021, 14:33 | Updated: 5 February 2021, 15:42

The UK's coronavirus R number dropped slightly from last Friday's figure
The UK's coronavirus R number dropped slightly from last Friday's figure. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The UK's coronavirus R number has dropped slightly to between 0.7 and 1, according to SAGE which says the epidemic is "shrinking" in England.

Britain's coronavirus growth rate is also between -5 and -2 per cent, the government's scientific advisory group said, meaning the number of new infections is falling by between two and five per cent every day.

However, infections across the country still remain high and people continue to be urged to adhere to lockdown rules.

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Scientists are also concerned about the emergence of new Covid variants.

SAGE said today: "Estimates of the R value are below 1 in all NHS regions of England, although the upper limit of these ranges are at 1.0 for the North East and Yorkshire, and the North West. Although R is at or below 1 in all regions, there may be more variation in transmission within each region.

"These estimates mean we are now confident the epidemic is shrinking across England, though it remains important that everyone continues to stay at home in order to keep the R value down, protect the NHS and help save lives."

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Last week, the R number for the UK was between 0.7 and 1.1.

The figure represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.

An R between 0.7 and 1 means, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 7 and 10 other people.

When R is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially, but when it is below 1 it means the epidemic is shrinking.

SAGE said the estimates published on Friday are based on the latest data available up to February 1.

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The R vales for regions in England are:

- England 0.7 to 0.9

- East of England 0.7 to 0.9

- London 0.6 to 0.8

- Midlands 0.7 to 0.9

- North East and Yorkshire 0.8 to 1.0

- North West 0.7 to 1.0

- South East 0.6 to 0.9

- South West 0.7 to 0.9

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It comes as new research suggests the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is effective at fighting the new UK coronavirus variant.

Oxford University researchers who developed the vaccine say it has a similar efficacy against the variant, compared with the original strain of Covid-19 against which it was tested.

Experts had been concerned about whether or not the vaccines currently being administered throughout the UK would be effective against the strain.

Meanwhile, the UK government has announced a deal with biopharmaceutical company CureVac to develop vaccines against future variants of coronavirus.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the partnership with the German firm will allow the UK to "swiftly tweak and roll out" existing vaccines to combat new variants.

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