UK R rate now as high as 1.4 as more than a million estimated to have virus in England

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2 min read
A pedestrian wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walks past a shop, temporarily closed down due to current coronavirus restrictions, in Shrewsbury, western England on January 6, 2021, on the second day of Britain's national lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19. - England went back into full lockdown as Europe battled Wednesday to stem a rising tide of coronavirus cases, and the United States logged its worst daily death toll of the pandemic. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A pedestrian wearing a face mask in Shrewsbury. The UK's coronavirus 'R' rate is now as high as 1.4. (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

The UK’s coronavirus reproduction “R” rate is now as high as 1.4, leading scientists have said.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said R is now between 1.0 and 1.4.

R represents the average number of people each COVID-positive person goes on to infect. When the figure is above 1.0, an outbreak can grow exponentially.

The latest R of between 1.0 and 1.4 means that on average, every 10 people with COVID-19 will infect between 10 and 14 other people.

The most recent R, recorded 16 days ago, was between 1.1 and 1.3.

Watch: Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine ‘works against rapid spread mutant strains’

Since then, the new coronavirus variant has caused record daily infections and record hospitalisations. On Thursday, the second highest daily death toll of 1,162 was recorded. All four nations are under national lockdowns.

According to the latest Sage release, meanwhile, the South West has the highest R of England’s regions: between 1.1 and 1.5.

Friday’s update came after Office for National Statistics (ONS) research also estimated 1,122,000 people in England had the virus between 27 December and 2 January, equating to one in 50 people.

The government is currently attempting to roll out the vaccine to nearly 14 million of the most vulnerable people by mid-February.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday, Boris Johnson described it as an “unprecedented national effort”.

The latest government data shows 1,296,432 people had received their first jab as of Sunday, with 21,313 having received their second dose.

On Friday, meanwhile, a third vaccine was approved for use in the UK, though doses will not be available straight away.

The jab from US biotech firm Moderna was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), joining the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca.

The government has ordered 17 million doses, but the first ones are not expected to arrive until the spring.

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown