Official Covid R rate UP again but remains below crucial 1 as cases fall
THE official coronavirus R rate has risen slightly in England this week and now sits between 0.8 and 1.0.
Cases are still falling across the UK as the jabs rollout continues to slash infection rates.
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For the last few weeks Sage has been unable to give a rate for the UK as a whole.
The team said that because case numbers are so low, the margin of error becomes bigger.
The Department of Health today said that it will continue to publish the R rate, but that it will no longer release a statement with the information.
This, it said, is because "disease incidence is low".
The R rate has remained relatively constant and below 1 since February 5, having peaked on January 15 at between 1.2 and 1.3.
The value reflects the outbreak with a slight lag, as it takes up to three weeks for changes in the spread of the disease to be clear.
Therefore the estimates today won’t account for any impact of beer gardens, zoos and gyms reopening.
But it could factor in any change caused by the rule of six, which came into force in England on March 29.
It comes as:
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Figures released today revealed that infections are still falling and that around one in 610 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to April 16 – down from one in 480 the previous week – figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed.
It stated that an estimated 90,000 people within the community population in England had Covid-19.
This is the first time it has dropped below 100,000 since the week to September 10 2020, when the estimate stood at 59,800, the equivalent of around one in 900 people.
NOTE OF CAUTION
Experts today said the ONS bulletin was "good news" but that people should still be cautious.
Prof Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, The Open University said: "One note of caution is that though the rates of testing positive in England and Wales are now down to the levels of early to mid-September, very far below the rates in the later autumn and the winter, they are still between two and three times as high as they were last August."
He added that the news coming out about the effectiveness of vaccines is also promising.
He added: "The effect of infections in individuals and the NHS is considerably smaller than it used to be – but a lot of people are still not vaccinated, and we do need to keep looking carefully at the data as we come more and more out of lockdown restrictions."
Both London and the East of England have the highest R rates in the country and both currently sit between 0.8 and 1.1.
They are followed by the South East which is slightly lower between 0.7 and 1.1.
Next is the North East and Yorkshire, currently between 0.7 to 1.0.
The North West, the South East and the Midlands are all between 0.7 and 0.9.
The R represents the number of people an infected person will pass Covid on to, meaning currently, every patient is passing the virus onto less than one other person.
R must stay below one for the outbreak to shrink. Anything greater than one means the outbreak is growing.
The R number can be suppressed by limiting social contacts which is why lockdowns have been used.
But as society opens back up, it will undoubtedly rise as people socialise with more friends and family, increasing the risk of Covid spread.
However with the triumph of vaccines, cases should remain low overall – but this is not guaranteed.
While the R rate from Sage suggests infections are highest in the South of England, one expert today said that restrictions should be loosened in areas where infections are lowest.
King's College London's Professor Tim Spector, who is the lead scientist on the Zoe Symptom Tracker app said "the Government could be looking at easing restrictions in parts of the country that have low infection rates like the South West and South East, as in these places there is limited risk right now."
The Zoe data shows cases are lowest in the South East and West of England.
It states that Yorkshire and the Humber has the highest daily case rate with 271 new infections being reported each day.
Data from the ZOE Symptom Tracker app shows that the South of England has some of the lowest infection rates in the country.
The East of England has the lowest infection rate, and is estimated to be recording just 31 symptomatic infections each day.
It's followed by the South West with 36 each day and the South East with 57 a day.
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