Friday 20 November 2020 1:41 pm

Coronavirus: R rate falls across UK to between 1 and 1.1

The UK’s coronavirus reproduction number has fallen slightly to a maximum of 1.1, according to official figures.

The current estimate of Britain’s coronavirus R rate now stands between 1 and 1.1, down from a previous estimate of 1.1 and 1.2.

It means on average every 10 people infected will infect between 10 and 11 other people, according to official data from Sage.

Separate data released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that Covid infection rates have begun to level off in England and Scotland, and dropped in Wales and Northern Ireland.

The number of new infections decreased across the North West and Midlands in the week to 14 November, though they crept up slightly in London and the South East.

Read more: Pfizer applies for emergency use of Covid-19 vaccine in US

The survey, which tested for symptoms in the UK population, found that the highest Covid-19 positivity rates remain in the North West and Yorkshire and The Humber.

ONS data showed an estimated 664,700 people in England currently have the virus — around 1 in 80.

The fresh data suggests the UK is beginning to feel the effects of lockdowns across the devolved nations, and comes as a welcome boost to hopes for an easing of restrictions over the Christmas period. 

Test and Trace

Figures showed a best estimate of around 38,900 new infections each day in England in the week to 14 November. 

However, official figures from Public Health England last updated yesterday showed an average of just above 21,000 new cases each day in England over the same period, meaning the NHS Track and Trace system is still failing to identify around a third of positive cases.

Figures released yesterday showed that just 60.5 per cent of people who came into contact with the virus in the week to 11 November were reached by the NHS Track and Trace app. 

The figure meant the government app failed to reach 123,000 positive coronavirus cases, and came close to the record low of 59.6 per cent seen at the end of last month.

It comes as official Public Health England slides leaked to Sky News showed that government officials heading up England’s contact tracing scheme believe they need to “reset” their relationships with local councils. 

Analysis by City A.M. revealed that almost two-thirds of London boroughs have departed from the national contact tracing scheme, as confidence in the NHS app continues to plummet.

Redbridge and Hammersmith and Fulham yesterday joined a list of 21 out of 32 London boroughs that have snubbed the national system in favour of localised approaches to tackling the virus. 

It comes as the government faces mounting pressure to sack Test and Trace chief Baroness Dido Harding, after the programme failed to deter a second wave of infections across the country. 

Health officials have reiterated that a successful test, track and trace system is key for any government strategy for leaving lockdown.

‘Tis the season

The Prime Minister has repeatedly promised England will return to the “regional tiered approach” after its month-long national lockdown, warning that lower tiers may see restrictions tightened in a bid to curb rising infection numbers.

But the UK’s top scientific advisers earlier this week threw cold water on hopes for a return to Tier 1 restrictions, under which household mixing is still allowed.

“Hopefully the government will make the decision that will allow us to have some mixing, but we will wait and see what that is,” said Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace.

Read more: Gatwick Airport to open coronavirus testing centre

Hopkins added that for every day that lockdown measures are lifted over Christmas, England could face a further five days of restrictions later on.

The comments stoked speculation that England may enter a third national lockdown after the festive season, adding: “Then, I think, once we have got past the Christmas period if there has been a release and some socialisation we will all have to be very responsible and reduce those contacts again.”

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