Fears UK's coronavirus R rate is rising ahead of second wave – as south ‘close to 1’

FEARS are growing that the crucial R rate in the UK is rising as seven English regions have witnessed a spike in infection levels.

Analysis from experts at Cambridge University revealed that the reproduction rate is close to 1 in some parts of the country.

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The 'R' rate is a key measure used to find out the rate at which one infected person is likely to spread coronavirus.

Scientists use it to predict how far and how fast a disease will spread – and the number informs policy decisions about how to contain an outbreak.

If the R rate of a disease is one or above, it will spread exponentially, infecting more and more people.

The data from scientists at Cambridge University found that four out of seven English regions have seen a rise in infections.

The south-east and the south-west are now above 1, meaning the infection is spreading in these areas.

 

 

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week warned that a second wave was emerging in Europe.

Today health secretary Matt Hancock expressed concerns over the number of cases in not just Europe but across the globe.

Speaking about the R rate, he said the number of cases that had been coming down sharply had flattened off.

"These figures are published by the statisticians and there will be another publication tomorrow. I'm not going to prejudge what the statisticians say as we need to do this properly."

Experts from the MRC Biostatistics Unit said the R rate is “very likely” close to one in most regions, The Telegraph reported.

They claim that the rate is now 1.04 in the south-west, 1.02 and 1.02 in the south-east.

Data published by Sage last week revealed that the R rate was pushing 1 in nearly every region and the research from experts at Cambridge backs this theory.

What is the R rate?

THE 'R' rate is a key measure used to find out the rate at which one infected person is likely to spread coronavirus.

Government officials use the 'R' rate, also known as the reproduction number, to decide when to ease coronavirus lockdown measures.

R0, or R nought, refers to the average number of people that one infected person can expect to pass the coronavirus on to.

Scientists use it to predict how far and how fast a disease will spread – and the number informs policy decisions about how to contain an outbreak.

For example, if a virus has an R0 of three, it means that each sick person will pass the disease on to three more people – if no containment measures are introduced.

It's also worth pointing out that the R0 is a measure of how infectious a disease is, but not how deadly.

If the R rate of a disease is one or above, it will spread exponentially, infecting more and more people.

Therefore, being below R1 is key because it means the virus will likely peter out.

Scientists work backwards to estimate the R rate, as we can’t know the exact moment people are infected.

A range of data is used, such as ICU admissions, hospital admissions, deaths and positive tests.

It takes two to three weeks for changes in the R rate to be shown in this data, due to the time gap between infection and the need for treatment.

The data from the Cambridge scientists also revealed that the north-east and Yorkshire is at 0.90, while the north-west and London both sit at 0.92.

The east of England sits at 0.88 while the lowest rate is in the Midlands at 0.78.

Estimates from the Cambridge experts state that the UK is seeing around 3,000 new infections each day.

This is up from the current average of 725 a day. At the beginning of July this was at 546.

At present there are 66 deaths per day in the UK and the experts said that this could be between 43 and 84 by mid August.

So far in the UK over 45,000 people have died from the virus and the new data suggests that more infections are imminent.

Just yesterday the chief executive of the NHS confederation said senior managers were worried that a surge in cases was imminent.

Niall Dickson said there are concerns about how winter will impact the NHS but said people are also worried about a second spike.

One expert said every time restrictions are lifted, there will likely be an increase in cases.

Professor Jose Vazquez-Boland, the chair of infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh said: "What we are facing is a comeback of community transmission after removing the lockdown measures. We have to be clear that the efficacy of lockdowns is only temporary.

“There will be a resurgence of new cases every time social restriction measures are lifted as long as the virus remains in circulation."

Speaking on Sky News this morning Mr Hancock said he was worried about a second wave and said “we have to do everything we can to prevent it from reaching these shores”.

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