COVID reproduction ‘R’ rate jumps slightly to between 1.1 and 1.3
It comes as spread of mutant coronavirus continues
R above 1.0 means outbreak can grow exponentially
The UK’s coronavirus reproduction “R” rate has slightly increased as the new COVID-19 variant continues to spread.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the R number is now between 1.1 and 1.3, up from 1.1 and 1.2 on Friday.
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 1.1 and 1.3 means that on average, every 10 people with COVID will infect between 11 and 13 other people.
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It is the highest figure since 6 November, when R was also between 1.1 and 1.3 and England’s national lockdown had just started.
Of England’s regions, the East and London have the highest R: between 1.2 and 1.5. The North East and Yorkshire and the North West have the lowest R: between 0.9 and 1.1.
Wednesday’s update follows suggestions of tougher measures to contain the spread of the mutant coronavirus. The new strain is up to 70% more transmissible than the original.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick acknowledged “it may be necessary to take further action” to curb rising case numbers.
There has been speculation more areas of England could join parts of London, the South East and East in the newly created – and most severe – Tier 4.
The current tier levels in England are due to be reviewed on 30 December, but that could be accelerated.
Genomic researchers have found the new strain has already spread around the UK, with cases identified in Wales and Scotland.
On Tuesday, the government announced the highest ever daily number of lab-confirmed COVID infections in the UK: 36,804.
However, a report by Cambridge University scientists released on Monday estimated 91,100 people are being infected every day in England alone.
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