UK coronavirus R rate rises to between 0.7 and 1

15 May 2020, 16:38

The rate of infection in the UK could have risen back up to 1
The rate of infection in the UK could have risen back up to 1. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

The rate of infection for coronavirus in the UK has risen to between 0.7 and 1.0, scientific advisers warned on Friday.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said this is a change from 0.5 to 0.9 last week. When the R-number reaches one, it means on average every person with coronavirus passes it on to one other person.

The rise is said to reflect the situation in care homes, as well as hospitals, and more widely in society.

Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser said: “R is one of the important things you can track to understand an epidemic.

"If you can estimate R, then you have part of a reliable tool for planning how to combat the virus.

“If the R is higher than one that means this disease is growing exponentially and will keep on spreading to more and more people.

"To keep R below one and control the virus, it is vital that people stay alert and continue to follow the latest Government guidelines to the letter.

“In the coming weeks we will update this estimate regularly.”

READ MORE: The R-number explained

The rise comes as the UK heads into its first weekend after lockdown measures were relaxed by the prime minister one week ago.

Experts say the small increase in the R-value isn't thought to be linked to the lifting of lockdown as it is too soon to show up in the data.

At the start of the outbreak, it is thought the R-number was between 3.5 and 4.

R is a measure of how fast a virus is spreading. Above 1 means an outbreak is growing and the further below 1 the faster it is shrinking.

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: “R is one of the important things you can track to understand an epidemic. If you can estimate R, then you have part of a reliable tool for planning how to combat the virus.

“If the R is higher than one that means this disease is growing exponentially and will keep on spreading to more and more people. To keep R below one and control the virus, it is vital that people stay alert and continue to follow the latest Government guidelines to the letter.

“In the coming weeks we will update this estimate regularly.”

Speaking about the first weekend coming out of lockdown Matt Hancock said: “Everyone can play their part in keeping R down by following social distancing rules. IF you do go outdoors do it only with members of your own household and keep two metres away from others.”

Deputy chief medical officer for England Dr Jenny Harries said in today's press briefing that the R-value which is between 0.7 and 1 with a broad estimate is showing the infection rate coming down.

She said there are different R-values in different parts of the country - noting care homes and hospitals as examples.

However, she said it is quite likely that it will be lower in parts of the country where people are practising social distancing well.

Research published by Public Health England and Cambridge University suggests London's R-value has fallen to 0.4 but the figure is higher in the north of England.

Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Dr Sebastian Funk said the number of daily new cases of Covid in London is likely to be a little bit higher than 24.

Asked whether the R rate should be looked at regionally, Prof Funk said: "I absolutely do so, yes."

Pushed on whether the Government should react to different R rates regionally in policy terms too, he added: "I think that is something that we will probably have to do going forward."

The UK's highest infection rate is in the North East and Yorkshire at 0.8.

According to researchers, they are seeing around 4,320 new infections a day.

It comes as the UK death toll rose by 384 today, bringing the total to 33,998.

At least 3,560 people have tested positive for the disease in the last 24 hours.

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