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COVID-19: UK’s R number between 0.7 and 1.0, according to latest estimate

Written by on 5 February 2021

The UK’s coronavirus reproduction number – known as R – is between 0.7 and 1.0, according to the latest estimate.

The R refers to the number of people an infected person will pass COVID-19 on to.

The latest growth rate for the UK is between -5% and -2%, which means the number of new infections is shrinking by between 2% and 5% every day.

An R value between 0.7 and 1.0 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between seven and 10 other people.

The range is slightly narrower than last week’s number, which was between 0.7 and 1.1, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said.

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It comes as latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest positive tests are falling in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland – with swab tests from people signed up to the COVID symptom app suggest cases are down 70% from their peak in January.

In England, the regional R rates are:

  • England – 0.7 to 0.9
  • East of England – 0.7 to 0.9
  • London – 0.6 to 0.8
  • Midlands – 0.7 to 0.9
  • North East and Yorkshire – 0.8 to 1.0
  • North West – 0.7 to 1.0
  • South East – 0.6 to 0.9
  • South West – 0.7 to 0.9

In a breakdown of the different regions in England, some areas were seen to have a range below one, continuing from last week – meaning the number of new infections is falling.

This included the East of England, with an R number of 0.7 to 0.9 (the same as last week), while London saw its figure fall slightly with an estimated range between 0.6 to 0.8 compared with 0.7 to 0.9 last week.

The North East and Yorkshire had the highest estimated R number, between 0.8 to 1.0.

Last week’s range was greater compared to the week before that (0.8 and 1) – thought to be down to regional variations in the number.

When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially, but when it is below 1 it means the epidemic is shrinking.

The estimates, by SAGE scientists, 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.

Latest ONS figures show that in England, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID fell in the week ending 30 January 2021, but remains high.

It estimated that 846,900 people within the community population in England had the virus, equating to around one in 65 people.

In Wales, the percentage of people testing positive remained level in that same week, with 42,700 people estimated to have COVID-19 – meaning around one in 70 people.

Meanwhile, the data showed that the percentage of people testing positive in Northern Ireland had decreased, with 28,700 people estimated to have the virus – around one in 65 people, and the figure also fell in Scotland, with 46,100 people thought to have COVID – one in 115 people.