UK’s R rate stays around 1 – but disease still spreading ‘at dangerous rate’
Coronavirus is still spreading in Britain at a dangerously high rate, new figures show.
The reproduction number, referred to as R, for the UK as a whole remains unchanged from last week and is between 0.8 and 1, data published today by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) indicates.
In England, the R is between 0.8 and 1, but SAGE has indicated it is not confident that R is currently below 1 in the country.
The R number represents the number of people each Covid-19 positive person is thought to go on to infect.
An R-value of 1 means each carrier passes the virus on to another person and rates of infection will, therefore, remain at the same level. Only when the R rate falls below 1 will the number of new cases start to diminish.
New Sage data has also revealed the growth rate of coronavirus transmission is between minus 4% and minus 1%, changing from between minus 5% and zero last week.
The growth rate reflects how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, as a way of keeping track of the virus.
Britain's unchanged R rate is concerning given the Government's announcement that more social distancing measures are to be relaxed from this weekend.
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Wedding receptions with up to 30 guests will once again be able to take place, as well as indoor performances at theatres, comedy clubs and concert venues with socially distanced audiences.
Some trials of sporting events with a limited number of spectators will also resume, and bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos will reopen for the first time since March.
The restrictions will be eased on Saturday, the Prime Minister said yesterday.
That's despite Boris Johnson setting out five key tests back in May that must be met before lockdown measures could be significantly eased.
The third and most crucial test was getting the R rate down below 1, with health experts stressing the importance of maintaining a very low level of community transmission.
Sage's new figures indicate this goal has yet to be reached.
The other four tests were: making sure the NHS is not overwhelmed, achieving a "sustained and consistent" fall in the daily death rate, ensuring supplies of tests and PPE can meet future demand and being confident any changes made wouldn't risk a deadly "second wave" of coronavirus cases.
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