THE UK’s coronavirus R rate has crept up this week but is still crucially below 1.
The R rate – the number of people an infected person will pass Covid on to – is between 0.7 to 0.9 across the UK, and between 0.8 and 1.0 in England.
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Last week Sage estimated it was between 0.6 and 0.9.
It comes as data from the ZOE Symptom Tracker app revealed that infections have crept up by seven per cent in the last week.
Professor Tim Spector, who heads up the study said a divide was emerging in England.
He said: “We’re seeing the regions diverge with Scotland, Wales, the Midlands and the North of England recording higher figures than in the South.
“As expected, cases in children are rising slightly off the back of schools reopening, and this effect is felt more strongly in Wales and Scotland where schools went back earlier.
“This is a necessary impact of unlocking society and numbers are currently well under control and aren’t a cause for concern.”
The data states that a week ago there were 4,470 new daily Covid cases and that this week, on average there has been 4,785.
However this is still down from a peak of 69,000 at the beginning of the year.
It comes as:
A lower R rate is preferable for experts deciding on the easing of lockdown restrictions.
When the R is below 1, it means transmission is low enough for the epidemic to shrink – but greater than 1, it suggests the outbreak is growing.
The values are shown as a range, which means the true R rate most likely lies somewhere between the upper and lower estimates.
Looking at the R rate on a regional basis and some areas of England could have an R rate as high as 1.
The North East and Yorkshire has the highest R rate and sits between 0.8 and 1.
This is followed by the East of England, the Midlands, the North West and the South East – each region has an R rate between 0.7 and 1.
London and the South West have the lowest R rates and currently sit between 0.7 and 0.9.
Sage said: “These estimates are based on the latest data, available up to 22 March, including hospitalisations and deaths as well as symptomatic testing and prevalence studies.
“These estimates represent the transmission of Covid-19 over the past few weeks.
“As R is a lagging indicator, the latest figures cannot account for the most recent policy changes, and do not yet fully reflect the re-opening of schools in England.”
The estimates from Sage are different from that given by the scientists who run the ZOE Symptom Tracker app.
Sage uses data such as the number of people testing positive, hospitalisations, and deaths.
Because of the period between initial infection, developing symptoms, the need for hospital care, and death means that these data can take up to three weeks to reflect changes in viral transmission.
The experts at ZOE use reports from over one million users of their app and the number of symptomatic users who have tested positive for Covid-19.
What does R rate mean?
R0, or R nought, refers to the average number of people that one infected person can expect to pass the coronavirus on to.
Scientists use it to predict how far and how fast a disease will spread – and the number can also inform policy decisions about how to contain an outbreak.
For example, if a virus has an R0 of three, it means that every sick person will pass the disease on to three other people if no containment measures are introduced.
It’s also worth pointing out that the R0 is a measure of how infectious a disease is, but not how deadly
Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously stated that the reopening of schools would mean an increase in infection rates – but said that the roadmap out of lockdown is still on track.
Speaking after schools first reopened he said: “We do accept of course there will be a risk of increased transmission, that’s inevitable.
“If you open up schools to millions of kids across the country that’s going to happen, but we think we can do it now the way we are because we have the proportion of the population vaccinated.
“And with the number of patients being admitted to hospital with Covid each day still eight times higher than the lows of last summer it’s more vital than ever to follow the rules.”