Thursday 29 October 2020 11:36 am

Coronavirus: London R rate catapults to highest in the country

Covid-19 is now spreading fastest in the capital, according to the latest official estimates, raising fears of a Tier 3 London lockdown.

The ‘R rate’ — the rate of spread of infection — has catapulted to a best estimate of 2.9 in London, the highest rate in the country. 

Read more: London pandemic update: How many Covid-19 infections are there in your local borough?

Figures released today by the Department of Health and Social Care, compiled by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, showed the virus was growing exponentially in the week to 25 October. 

It means each infected person is estimated to transmit the virus to almost three other Londoners.

However, the prevalence of coronavirus in the capital still remains lower than in other regions such as Lancashire, Manchester, Liverpool and West Yorkshire, with less than one per cent of the capital’s population infected. 

The authors of the report warned: “The epidemic is now increasing most rapidly in the Midlands and South. 

“Patterns of growth rate and the age distribution of cases in the South now are similar to those observed in northern regions during the prior two rounds of this study,” they said. 

Analysis of coronavirus swab tests found that prevalence of Covid-19 across England more than doubled in the week to 25 October, with 128 in every 100,000 people currently infected with the virus.

RegionBest estimate of R number in the
week to 25 October
South East2.34
North East0.57
North West1.21
Yorkshire and the Humber1.54
East Midlands1.40
West Midlands1.81
East of England2.18
South West2.06
Source: Estimates based on study by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, released by the Department of Health and Social Care

“The co-occurrence of high prevalence and rapid growth means that the second wave of the epidemic in England has now reached a critical stage,” health officials noted.

“Whether via regional or national measures, it is now time-critical to control the virus and turn R below 1 if further hospital admissions and deaths from Covid-19 are to be avoided.”

The study noted that interim estimates indicated strongly that the R rate is above 2 in the South of England including London, but that there were “wide confidence intervals” in the official rate.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the Imperial program, said: “These interim findings paint a concerning picture of the situation in England, where we’re seeing a nationwide increase in infection prevalence, which we know will lead to more hospitalizations and loss of life.

“We’re also detecting early signs that areas which previously had low rates of infection are following trends observed in the country’s worst-affected areas.”

It comes after London was earlier this month moved from “medium” alert to “high” alert, with fresh measures rolled out to slow the spread of the virus.

The new restrictions mean a ban on households mixing indoors, while Londoners have been told to avoid public transport where possible.

Read more: Covid-19 ‘doughnut effect’ creates retail opportunities in outer London, experts say

London recorded 2,477 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of infections since the pandemic began to 91,498.

Figures released by Public Health England showed that Ealing remains the worst-affected borough with 4,519 confirmed Covid-19 cases recorded since the start of the pandemic, following a spike of 141 cases yesterday.