R value drops to as low as 1 across the UK, Sage scientists say

13 November 2020, 13:30 | Updated: 13 November 2020, 13:34

The R value has dropped to as low as 1 across the UK
The R value has dropped to as low as 1 across the UK. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The R value across Britain has dropped to as low as 1, Government scientists have said, sparking hopes the current national lockdown won't be extended.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the reproduction number for coronavirus, has now fallen to between 1 and 1.2.

If the R value falls below 1, then it means the number of people who are being infected drops, and the cases decline.

Sage experts have warned that unless the figure does drop below 1, then the high demand for healthcare will continue and more people could lose their lives to the deadly disease.

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The current figure represents the figure over past weeks, after Wales was place into a fire breaker lockdown, Northern Ireland had their lockdown extended, and England was placed into a national lockdown.

For the past few weeks, Sage has put the R at between 1.1 and 1.3.

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Sage said the number of new infections is growing by between 1% and 3% every day.

A statement said: "Sage is confident that the epidemic has continued to grow in England over recent weeks.

"Although there is some evidence that the rate of growth in some parts of the country may be slowing, levels of disease are very high in these areas; significant levels of healthcare demand and mortality will persist until R is reduced to and remains well below one for an extended period of time."

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It comes as daily confirmed coronavirus cases jumped by 46% to 33,470 on Thursday.

Some officials have suggested the increase - the highest to date - is as a result of people going out and socialising just before the current lockdown period began on November 5.

The number of cases is continuing to sky rocket
The number of cases is continuing to sky rocket. Picture: PA

NHS medical director Stephen Powis played down the impact of the rise at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday.

He said it was "important to look at the number of cases reported over a number of days and not just take one day in isolation".

A further 563 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus as of Thursday.

Yesterday it was reported that a Covid tracking app estimated that the R value could have already fallen below 1.

Tim Spector, the principal investigator of the ZOE Covid symptom app, said its data had revealed on Thursday that the R number may have dropped to 0.9 across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, he added, the situation in the Midlands was "getting worse".

"We expect long lag before deaths drop," Mr Spector also warned in his update on Twitter. "Need to be wary of disease moving from population to hospital and care homes as happened in late spring."

The ZOE app, which tracks coronavirus throughout the UK and uses specialist analysis from scientists at King's College London, is not the provider of the official R number - but may provide an early idea of the effect extra restrictions have had.