UK R rate has fallen for second week running, according to Sage

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KNUTSFORD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using a long exposure) In this long exposure photograph, an electronic matrix sign informs motorists on the M6 in Cheshire 'Stay Home Essential Travel Only' on November 11, 2020 in Knutsford, United Kingdom. England enters the second national coronavirus lockdown today. People are still permitted to exercise with one other person, takeaway food is permitted but bars and restaurants are shut for sit-in service. Schools will remain open but people are being advised to work from home where possible and only undertake necessary travel. All non-essential shops are closed with supermarkets and builders' merchants remaining open. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
The government is urging people to avoid all non-essential travel as part of a country-wide lockdown in England (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The UK’s rate of coronavirus infection is between 1 to 1.2, but the virus is still spreading at an ‘epidemic’ speed.

Last Friday the R rate for the UK was 1.1 to 1.3, a slight drop on recent weeks, with a growth rate range of 2% to 4%.

This week’s published growth rate is given as 1% to 3%, meaning the number of new infections is growing by 1% to 3% every day.

The latest R rate range, which is between 1 and 1.2, still represents “widespread growth” of transmissions across the country.

Pedestrians wearing face masks pass a digital display showing the new measures required as England enters a second coronavirus lockdown in central London on November 5, 2020. (Photo by Hollie Adams / AFP) (Photo by HOLLIE ADAMS/AFP via Getty Images)
England is entering week three of a nationwide lockdown imposed in an attempt to bring down the R rate of coronavirus infection in the country (Hollie Adams / AFP)

Experts on the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) publish the latest figures every Friday.

A statement from the group highlighted that the difference between R rates in different countires in the UK has made it harder to give an overall figure for Britain as a whole.

Watch: Coronavirus UK deaths rise above 50,000

It said: “Given the increasingly localised approach to managing the epidemic, particularly between nations, UK level estimates are less meaningful than previously.

“It is Sage’s expert view, however, that this week’s estimates are reliable, and that there is still growth of the epidemic in England.”

On Thursday, there were a record 33,470 new cases of coronavirus in the UK, prompting the country’s top medical experts to urge people to follow lockdown rules and not leave their homes unnecessarily.

Data published on Friday morning by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested there were 654,000 people with COVID-19 in England between 31 October and 6 November, the latest dates for which data is available.

National Medical Director at NHS England, Professor Stephen Powis speaks during a virtual news conference, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain November 12, 2020.      Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS
National Medical Director at NHS England, Professor Stephen Powis, has urged people to continue to observe social distancing and lockdown rules in order to stem the spread of coronavirus (Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS)

The survey, which tests thousands of people in English homes whether they have symptoms or not, also found an estimated there were around 47,700 new cases per day during this period. This equates to around 1onein every 85 people.

Medical director of NHS England professor Stephen Powis told a Downing Street press conference on Thursday that news of a vaccine should not lead to a relaxation in the rules. He said it “might feel like the calvary is coming and we can relax about the restrictions” but added it was “vital” to follow the coronavirus guidance around ‘hands face and space’ and testing.

Friday’s estimates represent the transmission of COVID-19 over the past few weeks, due to the time delay between someone being infected, having symptoms and needing healthcare, so cannot be a 100% accurate reflection of the situation for the date published.

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Estimates for R and growth rates are shown as a range - the true values are likely to lie within this range.

If R is greater than one then the epidemic is growing, if R is less than one the epidemic is shrinking. The higher R is above 1, the more people one infected person infects and so the faster the epidemic grows.

The Regional R numbers across England are as follows:

East of England 1.1 to 1.4 (unchanged)

London 1.0 to 1.2 (down from 1.1 to 1.3)

Midlands 1.1 to 1.3 (unchanged)

North East and Yorkshire 1.0 to 1.2 (down from 1.1 to 1.2)

North West 0.9 to 1.1 (down from 1.0 to 1.1)

South East 1.2 to 1.4 (unchanged)

South West 1.2 to 1.4 (unchanged)

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