The UK’s R rate has dropped sharply to a best estimate of between 0.8 and 1, according to latest official data, suggesting lockdown restrictions across the four nations are beginning to make their mark.
The figure marks a significant fall from last week’s rate of reproduction of the virus, which was estimated to be somewhere between 1.2 and 1.3 for the whole of the UK, according to figures from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
It means the number of new infections is thought to be shrinking anywhere between one and four per cent each day, while last week it was rising between two and five per cent.
Sage scientists said the figures were encouraging, but warned that case levels remain “dangerously high”.
It comes after separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed percentage of Londoners testing positive with Covid has dropped significantly.
Around one in 35 people in London tested positive for coronavirus in the week to 16 January, according to the latest ONS infection survey. The figure marks a sharp drop from the week before, when one in 28 Londoners were estimated to be infected.
The spread of a coronavirus mutation first identified in the southeast also dropped last week, following more than a month of anxiety over several “highly transmissible” new variants.
However, the rate of infection in the capital remains high compared to the rest of England, where an average of one in 55 are estimated to be infected.
And while infections rates appear to be slowing in London, the percentage of positive cases increased in the Northeast and West Midlands in the week to 16 January.
The Prime Minister yesterday said it was “too early” to say whether current restrictions would be lifted by the spring or extend into the summer months.
Speaking to reporters in the flood-hit Northwest, Boris Johnson said it was “absolutely crucial” to obey the current lockdown rules “in what is unquestionably going to be a tough few weeks ahead”.
However, the PM last week vowed 2021 would see a return to the “great British summer”, as he clung on to hopes that the vaccine may prove the light at the end of the tunnel.
Health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday announced that the NHS is currently vaccinating at a rate of 200 jabs each minute, with more than 5m doses already handed out.
New plans being mulled by ministers to curb the spread of the virus include handing £500 to everyone in England who tests positive for Covid.
The Covid payments, which would reportedly cost up to £450m a week, are understood to be part of plans encourage more people to get tested for coronavirus and self-isolate.