The UK’s R rate has crept up slightly, despite Covid cases falling to their lowest level since September amid nationwide lockdown measures, according to the latest official figures.
The rate of reproduction of coronavirus now stands at 0.7 to 0.9, meaning every 10 people infected will likely infect between 7 and 9 other people.
The figure marks a slight increase from last week, when the R rate stood between 0.6 and 0.9. However, the reproduction rate crucially still remains below 1, meaning the virus is not growing exponentially.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) estimates that the number of new infections is shrinking by between three and five per cent every day.
It added that R is a lagging indicator, and that current estimates “cannot account for the most recent policy changes, nor changes in transmission that have not yet been reflected in epidemiological data”.
Test and Trace data released yesterday showed a total 68,738 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to 24 February — a significant drop from 84,546 the previous week and the lowest number since the week to 30 September.
London continues to hold the lowest rate of reproduction of the virus in the country, alongside the East, South East and South West of England, which all recorded an R rate of 0.6 to 0.8.
However, separate figures released earlier this week from Imperial College London’s latest React study suggested that the decline in coronavirus cases may be slowing across the country, and in some regions reversing.
There was no apparent change in infection rates in Yorkshire and the Humber in the second half of February, according to Imperial. Meanwhile London, the South East, East Midlands and West Midlands all recorded a slight increase in case rates.
Health secretary Matt Hancock noted there was “some cause for concern that our hard-won progress may be slowing down, and even reversing in some regions”, as he urged the nation to “remain vigilant”
‘This is on all of us,” he added. “We have set out a cautious but irreversible approach to easing restrictions, but until we reach each milestone we must all remember the virus is still here, and still dangerous.”