BRITAIN’S official R rate has narrowed – and could be below 1 in London, new Government estimates show.
The crucial value is now between 1.2 – 1.3 across the country based on the latest data, available up to January 11.
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Last week Sage estimated that the UK’s R rate – the number of people an infected person will pass Covid on to – was between 1.0 and 1.4.
It comes after scientists at Cambridge University said they believe the figure has dropped below one in some parts of the country.
The narrowing in the latest official R rate reflects greater certainty around the estimates, the Department of Health said today.
Sage says the value must be kept below 1 to cause the outbreak to shrink – above 1, and cases will continue to rise.
An R number between 1.2 and 1.3 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 12 and 13 other people.
The regional variations indicate that areas that have been under tougher restrictions for longer – such as London, East of England and the South East – are seeing a slight decline in the numbers of people infected.
But regions such as the North West and South West continue to see infections rise, which is likely to reflect the spread of the new variant in these areas.
A Dept of Health spokesperson said: “R is a lagging indicator and so these estimates cannot fully account for the impact of recent policy changes, such as national restrictions or the vaccine rollout, or other changes in transmission that have not yet been reflected in epidemiological data.
“This includes any changes that might be due to the lockdown in England, announced on January 5.”
Sage also estimates the growth rate, which reflects how quickly the number of infections are changing, is now between two per cent and five per cent.
It’s up slightly on last week – between zero to six per cent – but as with the R number, the range has narrowed slightly.
Regions such as the North West and South West continue to see infections rise, which is likely to reflect the spread of the new variant in these areas.
The coronavirus’ natural R rate is around 3. But it can be squashed by cutting back on social contact.
Sir Patrick Vallance recently said that Brits should “act like you have the virus” and continue to follow the “hands, face, space” guidance set out by the government.
Sage said today: “The latest figures show that we need to remain vigilant to keep this virus under control, to protect the NHS and save lives.
“We all need to play our part, and if everyone continues to follow the rules, we can expect to drive down the R number across the country.”
It comes as experts warn the new Brazilian strain could have been spreading across the country for “some time”.
New variants are circulating across the country and a third lockdown was implemented after Tier 4 restrictions were unable to control a variant of the virus first found in the South East in September.
Now another variant, which originates from Brazil is also believed to be making it’s way through the UK.
In other coronavirus developments:
Leading scientist Prof Wendy Barclay said there are two separate types of mutation that have emerged in the South American nation.
“In the databases, if you search the sequences, you will see that there is some evidence for variants from around the world, and I believe including the Brazilian one, which probably was introduced some time ago.
“And that will be being traced very carefully.”
The R rate estimates from Sage comes after experts at Cambridge University stated that the R rate is as low as 0.6 across some parts of the country.
The Cambridge team say the R rate could be as low as 0.6 in London, which has been the epicentre of the disease in recent weeks.
And their current estimate of the daily number of new infections occurring across England is 60,200, half the 117,000 per day on December 21.
Researchers at King’s College London also estimate daily new infections have dropped by 23 per cent in one week across the UK, and the R rate is 0.9.
But deaths are yet to peak, experts say, after a staggering 1,248 fatalities were recorded yesterday – more than seven per cent higher than last Thursday.
The second wave of the pandemic has now caused more deaths than the first.
A further 48,682 new infections were reported yesterday – down 7.5 per cent on last Thursday’s figure.
And new cases are tumbling in every age group – except, crucially, the over-80s.
The data – from the Department of Health – suggests cases have been dwindling even before the third lockdown was implemented last month.
But a staggering 1,248 fatalities were also recorded yesterday more than seven per cent higher than the previous weeks mortality rates.