The UK’s R rate has fallen below 1 for the first time since July, in the surest sign yet that current lockdown measures are working.
The rate of reproduction of the virus has fallen to a best estimate of between 0.7 and 0.9, according to official figures from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), down from an estimate of 0.7 to 1 last week.
It means that that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 7 and 9 other people — marking the first time in seven months the virus could be slowing instead of growing.
The level of Covid in circulation around the country may be shrinking at a rate of two to five per cent every day, according to Sage.
The R rate has also fallen below 1 in every English region, and is currently lowest in London.
The capital’s estimated R rate is between 0.6 and 0.8 — meaning the rate of infection is slowing most in London than anywhere else in the country.
However, London still has the highest number of people testing positive in the country.
Figures released this morning from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed an estimated 1 in 63 Londoners were infected with the virus last week, compared to around 1 in 80 people in England as a whole.
It means an estimate of around 144,000 people tested positive for coronavirus in the capital last week, out of London’s 8.9m-strong population.
More than half of those infected were thought to have contracted the Kent strain of coronavirus, which is currently the dominant variant in the UK.
However, cases appear to be falling rapidly across all regions in England except the South East.
The number of people in England thought to have been ill with Covid fell to 695,400 last week, down from 846,900 in the week to 30 January, according the latest ONS infection survey.
Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, a key architect of England’s first national lockdown, has said that coronavirus infection rates are falling faster than he had anticipated.
“The lockdown has really driven down cases quite fast. They’re basically halving about every 17 days at the moment or so, and that means in a month’s time — the Prime Minister bas talked about potentially reopening schools — we might have some bandwidth to do tha,” he told Politico’s Westminster podcast.
Boris Johnson has said he will set out a “roadmap” on 22 February for exiting current lockdown restrictions, with the reopening of schools expected to be the first easing of lockdown measures on 8 March.