BRITAIN’S R rate has risen again this week as a mutant variant of the virus continues to spread, official data has revealed.
The current R value – the number of people an infected person will pass Covid on to – is now estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.3 and could be as high as 1.5 in some regions.
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Last week Sage estimated that the rate was between 1.1 and 1.2.
The R rate must be kept below 1 to cause the outbreak to shrink. Above 1, and cases will continue to rise.
The coronavirus’ natural R rate is around 3. But it can be squashed by cutting back on social contact.
New data published today by Sage shows that the R rate could be as high as 1.5 in London and in the East of England.
On Saturday London and some parts of the East were plunged into strict Tier 4 restrictions.
These restrictions are similar to the second national lockdown in November and mean that hospitality is closed, along with gyms and all non-essential shops in these areas.
The R rate represents how fast the virus is spreading across the country Credit: PA:Press Association
What does the 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.
In both London and in the East of England, the rate sits between 1.2 and 1.5.
Some parts of the South East were also forced into Tier 4 after the area failed to control a rise in cases.
The R rate in the South East is between 1.2 and 1.4.
The South West and the Midlands both sit between 1.0 and 1.2, while the North East and Yorkshire, along with the North West both sit between 0.9 and 1.1 – these regions have the lowest R rate in the country.
The rise in the R rate comes as a new strain of the coronavirus sweeps across the UK.
Official data from Public Health England (PHE) revealed that cases of the variant are highest in the South East – as separate data located the mutant strain in 57 places across the UK.
But Scientists who sequenced the strain’s genome have now detected samples taken at 45 places in England, six in Scotland and six in Wales.
The Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) monitoring group revealed the full extent of of VUI-202012/01’s spread, with cases in Liverpool, Leicester, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol.
Locations near the cities of Leeds, Oxford, Coventry and Cambridge also produced samples.
The update on the R rate from the government comes hours after experts at the ZOE Symptom Tracker app revealed their prediction for the R rate.
Data from the app states that the R rate in England is currently at 1.3.
Data from the ZOE Symptom Tracker app states that there are currently 38,719 daily new symptomatic cases of Covid-19 in the UK on average over the two weeks up to 18 December.
This is a 43.9 per cent increase on 26,897 cases four days ago.
The R rate estimate from the experts for the UK is 1.2 and the experts also estimate that England sits at 1.3, Wales at 1.3 and Scotland at 1.1.
Last week the experts who run the ZOE Symptom Tracker App stated that the R rate was 1.1 across the UK.
Data from the ZOE app shows how cases are increasing – in turn pushing the R rate upCredit: zoe symptom tracker app
Commenting on the data today Prof Tim Spector said that the UK was a “mess” and needed to limit the amount of cases in the country in order to protect the elderly.
This week, record daily rises have been reported twice already as the infections double weekly.
On Tuesday, 36,804 cases were reported – a 99 per cent increase from the 18,450 infections recorded the week before.
And on Sunday, 35,928 infections were reported – a 94 per cent increase compared to the 18,447 cases reported the Sunday before.
If the trend continues, Christmas Day could see more than 50,000 cases recorded after 28,507 were reported on December 18.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge, using different data to the government, estimate that in England, the current daily number of new infections is actually 91,000.
Ministers are expected to meet again today – potentially putting more of England into Tier 4 lockdown in the coming days.