Friday 16 April 2021 2:05 pm

London R rate climbs above 1 for first time in months

London’s R rate has climbed above 1 for the first time in months, meaning the spread of the virus may no longer be slowing across the capital.

London’s R rate now stands at a best estimate of between 0.8 and 1.1. The figure marks a marginal hike from last week, when scientists estimated that the R rate was between 0.8 and 1.

The R rate represents the the rate of the spread of coronavirus. When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially, while a figure below 1 suggests that the epidemic is shrinking.

Read more: Covid: New Indian mutation found in UK raises immunity concerns

The new R rate means that, on average, every 10 people with Covid in London will infect between 8 and 11 other people, indicating that the virus may no longer be declining in the capital.

It marks London’s highest R rate since England entered its third national lockdown three months ago. During the first week of restrictions, the capital’s R rate hit a peak of 1.4.

Scientists had anticipated infections to rise in line with greater social mixing alongside the gradual easing of lockdown measures.

However, a lag time between the spread of coronavirus and the configuration of infection rates means the figure is likely to rise over the next few weeks. Today’s estimate is unlikely to take into account the impact of pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops reopening earlier this week.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) noted that the estimates were based on low numbers of cases, and were not robust enough to inform policy decisions alone.

Despite the potential uptick in capital’s infection rate, coronavirus cases have continued to plummet over the past few months while Londoners have remained at home. Just 315 Covid cases were reported in London yesterday — down from a daily peak of 19,862 on 29 December.

Official data also showed that England’s R rate dropped slightly to between 0.7 to 1 over the past seven days, down from a best estimate of between 0.8 and 1 last week.

Around one in 480 people in England were estimated to have Covid in the week to 10 April, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It marks a dramatic drop from around one in 340 the previous week, as England edges towards infections levels not seen since September.

Read more: Covid infection levels fell sharply across UK last week

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the rapid decrease was largely due to England’s three-month lockdown, rather than rapid progress with the UK’s vaccination programme.

“As we unlock the result will inevitably be that we will see more infections and sadly we will see more hospitalisations and deaths,” he added.