The Coronavirus R number and the virus growth rate in the UK may be incresing, government scientists warned today.
SAGE scientists have seen indications that the crucial figure, which tracks how many people on average are infected by each person with Covid-19, is increasing.
The official figure in England remained the same as last week – between 0.9 and 1.1.
And the growth rate for the whole UK is now between -2% to +1% – which means the number of new infections is somewhere between growing by 1% or shrinking by 2% every day.
That’s an increase from the previous estimate published last week, which was between -3% and +1%.
In a statement announcing the new figures, the Government Office for Science said: “We have been seeing indications that these values may be increasing, with estimated ranges increasing slightly from previous publications.
“Recent changes in transmission are not yet fully reflected in these estimates because the data used to calculate R and growth rate reflect the situation from a few weeks ago.
“It is also important to recognise that these are estimates, and there is a high degree of uncertainty with them. “
The statement explained that SAGE has a range of different models for estimating R. The figure released today has a time delay on it, which means it is probably more indicative of the R value over the last few weeks.
But they said a different model which has less of a time delay put the value higher.
They added: “For this reason, SAGE does not have confidence that R is currently below 1 in England.”
According to their estimates, every region in the UK could have an R value as high as 1.
The North East and Yorkshire and East of England have the lowest ranges, between 0.8 and 1.0.
The Midlands is estimated between 0.8-1.1, and London, the North West, South East and South West all between 0.9-1.1.
The Statement added: “Estimates of R and growth rate per day are less reliable and less useful in determining the state of the epidemic when disease incidence or the number of deaths is low, or where there is significant variability in the population or incidence, for example during local outbreaks.
“When this is the case, estimates of R and growth rate should not be treated as robust enough to inform policy decisions alone.
“Both are average measures and will smooth over localised outbreaks or over short periods of time, which will not accurately reflect the way infections are changing throughout the region.”