BRITAIN’S official coronavirus R rate has stalled, new estimates show, but may have dropped to 0.6 in London.
The R rate – which represents the number of people an infected person will pass Covid onto – is now between 0.7 and 1.1, Sage said today.
The UK’s official coronavirus R rate is between 0.7 and 1.1
It was estimated to be between 0.8 and 1 last week, and 1.2 and 1.3 the week prior.
It suggests the lockdown has successfully pushed the R rate down, but the progress has slowed.
Further data from different research teams also shows case numbers are not coming down as quickly as hoped.
Sage (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) today said the R rate is now below 1 in three regions but could still be above 1 in four.
In London the R rate may even be as low as 0.6, while in the South East and East it could be down to 0.7.
These areas have been under tighter restrictions for the longest after going into Tier 4 over Christmas.
Sage estimates the R rate is between 0.8 and 1.1 in the Midlands, North East and Yorkshire, North West and South West – a decrease from estimates last week.
These regions were hit with the new coronavirus variant later, which may explain why their R rate is higher.
When the R rate is below 1, it means transmission is low and the epidemic is shrinking – but greater than that number suggests it’s growing.
It can be lowered by reducing social contacts, depriving the virus of the ability to spread from one person to another.
The R rate peaked in the week of January 8, when it was between 1 and 1.4. It slowly rose from a low of 0.8 to 1 at the start of December.
The values are shown as a range, which means the true R rate most likely lies somewhere between the upper and lower estimates.
It came as:
Sage said the estimates are based on the latest data, available up to January 25, including hospital admissions and deaths as well as symptomatic testing and prevalence studies.
It warned that cases “continue to be dangerously high and the public must remain vigilant to keep this virus under control, to protect the NHS and save lives”.
“It is essential that everyone continues to stay at home, whether they have had the vaccine or not,” Sage said.
Sage, which advises the Government, usually cautions it can’t be entirely accurate in its estimates because of the variability in cases across the UK.
But the group think that this week’s estimates are reliable.
What does R rate mean?
R0, or R nought, refers to the average number of people that one infected person can expect to pass the coronavirus on to.
For example, if a virus has an R0 of three, it means that every sick person will pass the disease on to three other people if no containment measures are introduced.
Scientists use it to predict how far and how fast a disease will spread – and the number can also inform policy decisions about how to contain an outbreak.
It’s also worth pointing out that the R0 is a measure of how infectious a disease is, but not how deadly
Sage also estimates the growth rate, which reflects how quickly the number of infections are changing, is now -5 per cent to 0 per cent.
It means the number of new infections is broadly flat or shrinking by up to five per cent every day.
Last week Sage reported the growth rate was between -4 per cent and -1 per cent, meaning the outbreak was most likely shrinking.
The figures come as a blow as they suggest the crisis is taking a long time to improve.
It compares with last week when experts said all regions of England had seen drops in the R number and growth rate estimates.
The R rate and growth rate in each region, according to Sage
Reduction in cases has also slowed
It comes as another research group predicted the UK’s R rate was 0.9 – up from 0.8 last week.
And in the West Midlands, East Midlands and North East, the R value has increased to the dreaded 1.
The report from the ZOE Covid Symptom Study, published today, is based on more recent data from test swabs taken up to five days ago.
The researchers, led by King’s College London, also found that the number of people catching Covid per day has dropped by 22 per cent in one week, from 34,133 to 28,645 a day.
But the pace of the decline has slowed. Last week, the daily new cases figure fell by 26 per cent.
The ZOE Covid Symptom Study also said the R rate is below 1 in the UK, but has risen to 1 in some areas
The researchers, led by King’s College London, said the pace at which daily new cases are declining has slowed
Since the peak of 69,000 daily new cases around January 1, cases have fallen by 60 per cent.
But Tim Spector OBE, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app, said: “There are signs that this 60 per cent decrease is running out of steam with some areas already starting to see R values creep back up to 1.0.
“With the number of active cases (prevalence) at 520,000 and falling slowly, the risk of infection remains high and so it’s important to continue with social measures to reduce transmission.”
On average 1 in 134 people in the UK currently have symptomatic Covid, Prof Spector’s team say.
The highest risk areas in the UK are currently Liverpool (one in 68), London (one in 74) and Birmingham and Black Country (one in 96).
The Office for National Statistics – which also tracks the outbreak – also says cases have “levelled off”.
It reported today that one million people were carrying Covid at any given time in the week ending January 23, – the fourth week running.
The figure is the equivalent of one in 55 people.
London continues to have the highest proportion of people likely to test positive for coronavirus in any region of England, at one in 35 compared with one in 85 in Yorkshire.
Unlike the ZOE app, ONS includes people who do not have symptoms in their estimates, which is why they are always higher.
The Office for National Statistics says cases have “levelled off” and “remain high”
The percentage of people who have tested positive in each region in the week to January 23
The prevalence of the virus is broadly unchanged on the previous estimates for the period January 10 to 16.
The ONS said the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) in England “remains high”.
Sarah Crofts, senior statistician for the ONS Covid-19 Infection Survey, said: “In England rates are level but remain high, with the estimated level of infection still over one million people.
“Infection rates across Wales and Scotland have remained level and in Northern Ireland rates of infection have begun to level off.”
The data also shows that cases of the new variant have increased in the East Midlands.
The UK variant was first discovered in Kent in September last year and was partly the reason the UK had to go into a third national lockdown as the tiers system already in place was not sufficient to curb the spread.