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R number falls slightly to a maximum of 1.2

Written by on 13 November 2020

The coronavirus reproduction number in the UK has fallen slightly to a maximum of 1.2, government scientists have said.

Nationwide, the reproduction (R) number is now between 1.0 and 1.2 – down from between 1.1 and 1.3 last week, according to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

The number of new COVID-19 cases is increasing by between 1 and 3% every day, they added.

The R number is an indicator used to determine how quickly coronavirus is spreading, representing the average number of people each person with the virus goes on to infect.

But SAGE says that “the estimate of R for the entire UK has become less meaningful in recent weeks”, because of different restrictions in each of the four nations.

They also caution that while the R has dropped in some areas, case numbers there are still “very high”.

“Significant levels of healthcare demand and mortality will persist until R is reduced to and remains below 1 for an extended period of time,” they add.

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The R number is currently lowest in the North West of England – between 0.9 and 1.1, followed by the North East and London, which are both in line with the national figure of between 1.0 and 1.2.

The South West, South East and East of England have the highest R numbers – with a maximum of 1.4.

A breakdown of R numbers across England

South East 1.2 to 1.4 (unchanged)

South West 1.2 to 1.4 (unchanged)

East of England 1.1 to 1.4 (unchanged)

Midlands 1.1 to 1.3 (unchanged)

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

London 1.0 to 1.2 (down from 1.1 to 1.3)

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

Elsewhere on Friday, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey showed that 654,000 people had coronavirus outside of hospital in England between 31 October and 6 November.

This is the equivalent of around 1.2% of the population.

The most recent figures represent a jump from 618,700 people, or 1.13% of the population, who were estimated to have coronavirus in the previous week.

But the ONS said that while the infection rate has risen, “the rate of increase is slower than previous weeks”.

Case rates for the most recent period were highest among secondary school aged children, older teenagers and young adults, the report said.

While infection rates in Wales and Scotland increased, those in Northern Ireland have “now appear to have levelled off”, the ONS survey said.

In Northern Ireland around 1 in 105 people have COVID-19 in the community, compared to 1 in 85 in Wales and 1 in 135 in Scotland.