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Coronavirus R rate increases above 1 in parts of England
The coronavirus ‘R’ rate of infection has increased to above one in parts of the UK.
The crucial number, which indicates how many others a person with coronavirus will infect, has increased to 1.01 in the North West of England and to exactly 1 in the South West.
According to data produced by Public Health England and scientists from Cambridge University, the number has increased 0.73 in just a few short weeks.
Coronavirus has a natural R rate of 3, which means if there were no social distancing measures in place a person carrying Covid-19 would infect three others, who would each then go on to infect three others and so on.
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Social distancing and lockdown measures in the UK had managed to reduce the rate of infection. At the start of May, before the strict lockdown restrictions started to lift, the R rate was understood to sit somewhere between 0.5 and 0.9.
The regional breakdown of the coronavirus transmission number indicates that the R number in the Midlands to be at 0.9 and in the North East and Yorkshire, which previously had the highest R value, at 0.89.
PHE said latest estimates, worked out in conjunction with Cambridge University’s MRC Biostatistics Unit, show it is highly likely that R is below one in each other region of England.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, PHE medical director, said: ‘Our estimates show that the regional R numbers have increased although they remain below one for most of England – this is to be expected as we gradually move out of lockdown.
‘It is vital that everyone continues with social distancing, practising good hand hygiene and must remain at home and order a test if they have symptoms.’
The figures will pose questions for the government about the easing of the lockdown, as well as questions over how it intends to handle the rise.
‘There is some evidence that Rt [the R] has risen in all regions and we believe that this is probably due to increasing mobility and mixing between households and in public and workplace settings,’ says the analysis.
‘An increase in Rt will lead to a slowdown in the decrease in new infections and deaths.
‘There is evidence, from the forecast of deaths for the whole of England, that the increases in the regional reproductive numbers may result in the decline in the national death rate being arrested by mid-June.’
Previously ministers have said they will move towards ‘local lockdowns’ to deal with any regional outbreaks and the use of tracking and tracing should the spread start to increase again, but the national tracing system is not yet fully operational and plans for localised action have not yet been finalised.