Covid-19 R rate may risen to above one in the South West

Covid-19 R rate may risen to above one in the South West as SAGE reveals the Midlands is the ONLY region where it is definitely below the dreaded number but insists the outbreak is shrinking by up to 5% each day

  • Number 10’s scientific advisers today revealed the reproduction rate is still between 0.7 and 0.9 for the UK
  • SAGE admitted the rate has risen slightly for England and warned it could be as high as 1.1 in the South West
  • Separate data released by the expert panel also claimed the UK’s current growth rate is between -5 and -2% 
  • Infections could be on the rise in the East of England, as well as London and the South West, SAGE warned

South West England’s coronavirus R rate could now have edged above one, government scientists warned today as they admitted the Midlands is now the only region where the number is definitely below the dreaded level of one and outbreaks could be growing in three different regions. 

Number 10’s expert advisory panel SAGE revealed the reproduction rate — the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects — is still between 0.7 and 0.9 as a whole for the UK, meaning it hasn’t changed in almost two months.

But SAGE admitted the top-end estimate has risen slightly for England as a whole and warned it could be as high as 1.1 in the South West, home to Britain’s stay-cation hotspots of Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. London’s rate was feared to be above one in data given last week but it has now dropped to between 0.7 and 1.

Keeping the rate below one is considered key to easing lockdown because it means the outbreak is shrinking as not everyone who catches it passes it on. The estimates do not reflect the lockdown being relaxed last weekend, meaning it is too early to judge whether ‘Super Saturday’ triggered a spike in cases. 

Separate data released by the advisers also claimed the UK’s current growth rate — how the number of new cases is changing day-by-day — is between minus five and minus two per cent, meaning the Covid outbreak is definitely shrinking. Top experts said the figures were welcome news.

Infections could be on the rise in the East of England, however. SAGE, which warned estimates have a degree of variability when case levels plummet, acknowledged outbreaks may also be growing in London and the South West, both of which officials last week warned could be at centre of growing crises. 

It comes after other promising data released yesterday from a government surveillance testing scheme suggested the outbreak is still shrinking but only slowly. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) claimed just one in every 3,900 people are currently infected. 

In other coronavirus developments in Britain today: 

  • Families can finally look forward to reunions with elderly relatives in the coming days after Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested the care home visit ban will be lifted imminently;
  • Coronavirus ‘air bridges’ finally come into force with dozens of destinations opened up for Britons desperate to escape lockdown in the UK – but airports remained quiet;
  • Cruise holidays could be back by October, a minister suggested after furious backlash from companies at new advice telling all tourists to avoid ships because of the coronavirus risk; 
  • The Covid-19 pandemic is ‘getting worse’ as the number of worldwide cases has doubled to nearly 12million in just six weeks, the boss of the World Health Organization warned.

Number 10’s scientific advisers today revealed the R rate — the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects — is still between 0.7 and 0.9 as a whole for the UK. But SAGE admitted it could be one or higher in London, the Midlands, the North East and Yorkshire, the South East and the South West. Outbreaks could even be growing in London and the South West by 2 per cent each day, according to the latest estimate of growth rate

Separate data released by the government panel also claimed the UK’s current growth rate — how the number of new cases is changing day-by-day — could be between 0 per cent, meaning it has stagnated, or minus 6 per cent

AREA

ENGLAND 

WALES

SCOTLAND

N IRELAND

UK

EAST 

LONDON

MIDLANDS

NORTH EAST 

NORTH WEST

SOUTH EAST

SOUTH WEST 

THIS WEEK

0.8-1.0

 

 

0.7-0.9 

 

0.7-1.0

0.7-1.0

0.7-0.9

0.7-1.0

0.7-1.0

0.8-1.0

0.7-1.1 

LAST WEEK 

0.8-0.9

0.7-1.0

0.6-0.8 

0.5-0.9 

0.7-0.9 

0.7-0.9

0.8-1.1

0.8-1.0

0.8-1.0

0.7-0.9

0.7-1.0

0.7-1.0 

HOW WAS THE GROWTH RATE CHANGED?

AREA

ENGLAND 

WALES

SCOTLAND

N IRELAND

UK

EAST 

LONDON

MIDLANDS

NORTH EAST 

NORTH WEST

SOUTH EAST

SOUTH WEST 

THIS WEEK  

-4% to -1%

 

 

 

-5% to -2%

— 

-4% to +1%

-5% to +1%

-6% to -2% 

-5% to -1%

-5% to -1%

-4% to 0%

-6% to +1% 

LAST WEEK 

-5% to -2%

NOT GIVEN 

NOT GIVEN

NOT GIVEN 

-6% to 0% 

-5% to 0%

-4% to +2%

-4% to 0%

-5% to 0%

-4% to 0%

-5% to 0%

-7% to +2% 

COVID-19 PANDEMIC IS ‘GETTING WORSE’ AS CASES DOUBLE TO NEARLY 12MILLION IN SIX WEEKS 

The World Health Organization has warned the coronavirus pandemic has still not reached its peak – as lockdown measures are relaxed to make international travel easier.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the UN agency, said the virus is not under control ‘in most of the world’ and is ‘getting worse’.

He revealed the total number of cases of coronavirus worldwide has doubled in the last six weeks, with almost 12million confirmed infections since the pandemic first began in China.

The pandemic – which has seen 550,000 people die worldwide – is now being driven by outbreaks in the US, Brazil and India.

There are now concerns that Africa – which was spared from the first six months of the crisis – is seeing rocketing numbers of cases. Infections there have risen by 24 per cent in a week to more than half a million, with almost half in South Africa.

It took four months for the first one million cases to be declared worldwide – the milestone was hit on April 3 after the pandemic began in late December in the city of Wuhan.

But since then it has taken only three months for another 11million cases to be confirmed, showing the breakneck speed at which the virus spread worldwide.

An R of 1 means it spreads one-to-one and the outbreak is neither growing nor shrinking. Higher, and it will get larger as more people get infected; lower, and the outbreak will shrink and eventually fade away.

At the start of Britain’s outbreak it was thought to be around 4 and tens of thousands of people were infected, meaning the number of cases spiralled out of control.

The R has now been between 0.7 and 0.9 since the end of May, according to the Government, but experts say it will start to fluctuate more as the number of cases gets lower.

The fewer cases there are, the greater the chance that one or two ‘super-spreading’ events will seriously impact the R rate estimate, which are at least three weeks behind.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, explained this month that the UK is approaching the point where the R will no longer be an accurate measure for this reason.

Dr Yuliya Kyrychko, a mathematician at the University of Sussex, said small local outbreaks can have a major effect on increasing the R number and growth rate when cases plummet.

For the UK as a whole, the current growth rate, which reflects how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, is minus 5 per cent to minus 2 per cent. Last week advisers warned it may have been at 0 per cent, meaning it had stagnated.

If the growth rate is greater than zero, and therefore positive, then the disease will grow, and if the growth rate is less than zero, then the disease will shrink.

It is an approximation of the change in the number of infections each day, and the size of the growth rate indicates the speed of change.

It takes into account various data sources, including the government-run Covid-19 surveillance testing scheme — which is carried out by the ONS and published every Thursday.

For example, a growth rate of 5 per cent is faster than a growth rate of 1 per cent, while a disease with a growth rate of minus 4 per cent will be shrinking faster than a disease with growth rate of minus 1 per cent.

Neither measure – R or growth rate – is better than the other but provides information that is useful in monitoring the spread of a disease, experts say.

It comes after the results of a government surveillance testing scheme yesterday revealed England’s coronavirus outbreak is still shrinking and the number of new cases each day have more than halved in a week.

The Office for National Statistics, which tracks the spread of the virus, estimates 1,700 people are getting infected with Covid-19 each day outside of hospitals and care homes — down from 3,500 last week.

The estimate — based on eight new cases out of 25,000 people who are swabbed regularly — also claimed there are just 14,000 people who are currently infected.

This is the equivalent of 0.03 per cent of the population of the whole country, or one in every 3,900 people. It is down from 0.04 per cent last week and 0.09 per cent a week before.

Separate figures, from King’s College London, suggest the outbreak in England has stopped shrinking — but its estimate is lower than the ONS’s at around 1,200 new cases per day.

Department of Health chiefs have announced an average of just 546 new positive test results per day for the past week — but up to half of infected patients are thought to never show symptoms.

A report by Public Health England and the University of Cambridge predicted on Monday that the true number of daily cases is more like 5,300 but could even be as high as 7,600.

WHAT IS THE R NUMBER? AND HOW IS IT CALCULATED? 

WHAT IS R0?

Every infectious disease is given a reproduction number, which is known as R0 – pronounced ‘R nought’.

It is a value that represents how many people one sick person will, on average, infect.

WHAT IS THE R0 FOR COVID-19?

The R0 value for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was estimated by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team to be 2.4 in the UK before lockdown started.

But some experts analysing outbreaks across the world have estimated it could be closer to the 6.6 mark.

Estimates of the R0 vary because the true size of the pandemic remains a mystery, and how fast the virus spreads depends on the environment.

It will spread faster in a densely-populated city where people travel on the subway than it will in a rural community where people drive everywhere.

HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO OTHER VIRUSES?

It is thought to be at least three times more contagious than the coronavirus that causes MERS (0.3 – 0.8).

Measles is one of the most contagious infectious diseases, and has an R0 value of 12 to 18 if left uncontrolled. Widespread vaccination keeps it suppressed in most developed countries.

Chickenpox’s R0 is estimated to be between 10 and 12, while seasonal flu has a value of around 1.5.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A LOW R0?

The higher the R0 value, the harder it is for health officials control the spread of the disease.

A number lower than one means the outbreak will run out of steam and be forced to an end. This is because the infectious disease will quickly run out of new victims to strike. 

HOW IS IT CALCULATED?

Experts use multiple sources to get this information, including NHS hospital admissions, death figures and behavioural contact surveys which ask people how much contact they are having with others.

Using mathematical modelling, scientists are then able to calculate the virus’ spread.

But a lag in the time it takes for coronavirus patients to fall unwell and die mean R predictions are always roughly three weeks behind.  

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