health

UK's coronavirus R rate falls below one for the first time in two-and-a-half months 


The UK’s coronavirus reproduction rate may have fallen below the crucial number of one, according to the Government‘s scientists.

SAGENumber 10‘s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – estimates the ‘R’ is between 0.9 and 1.0 across the whole of the UK, down from 1.0 and 1.1 last week.

The R value represents the average number of people each Covid-19 patient passes the disease to and is one of the key indicators of how the virus is spreading. Getting it below one is crucial because it signals the epidemic is in retreat. An R of one means every 10 infected people spread it to 10 others.  

Every region in England is though to now have an R below one except London and the South East, where it is hovering around the crucial number.  

It marks the first time the R has been below one since the week up to September 4, before the second wave took off when universities and schools went back later that month.

The reproduction value has been dropping since the first tiered system was introduced in October. But it has been driven driven down even further thanks to the national lockdown, SAGE said today. 

It’s possible the England’s R rate is even lower than today’s estimate because SAGE’s modelling lags by about to to three weeks.

The group uses hospitalisation and death rates to give a more accurate estimate, and it takes weeks for Covid-19 patients to fall seriously ill after catching the virus. 

The fact the disease is already in retreat will raise more questions about whether the Tiers that come into force on Wednesday are necessary. 

Boris Johnson announced yesterday all but three places in England will be plunged into the toughest brackets when the national shutdown ends. He admitted today the  Tiers are ‘frustrating’ for low-infection areas – but refused to change course insisting the rules must be kept ‘simple’.

The PM defended the controversial new system that comes into force from December 2, saying while he ‘totally understood’ why people were upset it was not possible to treat neighbouring places differently. 

The UK's coronavirus reproduction rate may have fallen below the crucial number of one,

The UK’s coronavirus reproduction rate may have fallen below the crucial number of one,

HOW HAS THE R RATE CHANGED IN THE UK?

AREA

ENGLAND  

UK

EAST 

LONDON

MIDLANDS

NORTH EAST 

NORTH WEST

SOUTH EAST

SOUTH WEST 

THIS WEEK

0.9 – 1.0

0.9 – 1.0

— 

0.9 – 1.1

1.0 – 1.1

0.9 – 1.1

0.8 – 1.0

0.7 – 0.9

1.0 – 1.2

0.9 – 1.1

LAST WEEK 

 1.0 – 1.1

1.0 – 1.1

 

1.0 – 1.3

1.0 – 1.2

1.0 – 1.2

1.0 – 1.1

0.8 – 1.0

1.1 – 1.3

1.0 – 1.3

The Prime Minister was shown samples at lateral testing site at Porton Down near Salisbury today

The Prime Minister was shown samples at lateral testing site at Porton Down near Salisbury today  

ONLY THREE AREAS IN ENGLAND SAW COVID CASES RISE LAST WEEK, DATA SHOWS

Only three local authorities in England saw their coronavirus  infection rates rise last week, official data showed- even though 99 per cent of the country will be plunged into Tier Two or Three lockdowns next week.

And more than half – 97 out of 149 – saw their numbers of Covid cases plummet by at least 25 per cent, according to Public Health England’s weekly infection surveillance report.

Medway, East Sussex and Redbridge, in London, were the three authorities to see rises in Covid-19 infections, by 28.4 per cent, 5.2 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively, as lockdown restrictions entered their third week.

The Prime Minister is threatening to force 99 per cent of England’s population into the harshest measures under the re-vamped tier system when the shutdown ends on December 2. But there is mounting opposition from MPs from all sides, who say the way they were applied is ‘confusing’ and some boroughs should be spared from harsh county-wide rules.

Department of Health officials claim the percentage change in Covid infection rates was used as a key criteria for determining the tiers, alongside pressure on the local NHS, total infection levels, cases in over 60s and proportion of tests that are positive for Covid-19.

But figures back up claims from furious MPs and some scientists that ministers – who have refused to reveal what the exact thresholds are for placing restrictions on certain areas – should have placed more local authorities into looser tiers because of rapidly tumbling infections.

Experts said they felt ministers had been ‘cautious’ in applying tiers because of an expected spike over Christmas but that, once the festive period was past, it was likely many areas would be moved to Tier Two.

It comes after the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick suggested this morning that local authorities could be shifted down to Tier Two before Christmas, providing their case rates fell to low levels. And Boris Johnson today admitted the brutal new Tiers are ‘frustrating’ for low-infection areas – but refused to change course insisting the rules must be kept ‘simple’.

And showing the second coronavirus wave has already peaked, the Cambridge University academics behind the gloomy 4,000 deaths-a-day estimate that spooked ministers into imposing a second national lockdown in the first place have revised their model to say that cases across England started declining last month.

Speaking on a visit to the Porton Down laboratory site, Mr Johnson also held out the prospect that some areas could see their status downgraded within weeks.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I know it is frustrating for people when they are in a high-tier area when there is very little incidence in their village or their area. I totally understand why people feel frustrated.’

He added: ‘There really is the prospect of areas being able… to move down the tiering scale.’

Earlier, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said there was ‘every reason to believe’ the restrictions can be loosened in some places over the coming weeks – despite MPs having been told by other ministers there is little chance of that happening before January.

Ms Johnson facing war with his own MPs over the new lockdown system that will keep could keep 99 per cent of the country under Tier 2 and 3 after December 2.

Up to 70 Tory MPs, including in traditional heartlands such as Kent, are thought to be considering rebelling after it emerged people will only be able to socialise indoors and have a drink without a meal at pubs in Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly.

Senior Conservatives have warned the Prime Minister will face the ‘biggest revolt of this Parliament’ when the plan is put to a Commons vote on Tuesday.

Labour is unlikely to oppose the measures outright, meaning they will almost certainly go through – but a major mutiny would be another big blow to Mr Johnson’s authority.

The anger will be fuelled by the latest official data today showing only three local authorities in England saw their coronavirus infection rates rise last week.

More than half – 97 out of 149 – saw their numbers of Covid cases plummet by at least 25 per cent, according to Public Health England’s weekly infection surveillance report.

Medway, East Sussex and Redbridge, in London, were the three authorities to see rises in Covid-19 infections, by 28.4 per cent, 5.2 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively.

Hospitality chiefs say three-quarters of pubs and restaurants will be made ‘unviable’ by the draconian rules after the blanket national lockdown ends on December 2, which will leave 32million people in Tier 2 and 23million in Tier 3.

Rural places such as the village of Penshurst in Kent – which has had only three cases in the past week – have been plunged into Tier 3 because they fall under a local authority with high infection rates.

In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Jenrick tried to cool tensions by stressing that there will be a review of the Tier allocations on December 16, and they will then be looked at again every week.

‘It is possible. There will be a review point in 14 days’ time, around December 16. At that point we – advised by the experts – will look at each local authority area and see whether there is potential to move down the tiers,’ he told Sky News.

However, MPs have told MailOnline that health minister Helen Whately said on a conference call yesterday that there was little chance of any changes to the allocations before January. And government sources told the Times that it would need to wait until the impact of the ‘Christmas Bubble’ relaxation had become clear.

SAGE experts also cast doubt on the idea of shifts in two weeks, warning that would not be long enough to judge what impact the measures were having.



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