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COVID-19: England’s R number drops slightly as coronavirus infection level falls across UK

Written by on 17 April 2021

England’s R number has dropped slightly to between 0.7 and 1 – while the average level of coronavirus infection has fallen sharply across the UK, according to the latest data. 

Last week, the figure was estimated to be between 0.8 and 1 by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

R represents the average number of people a person with the virus goes on to infect. When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially – but it is shrinking if it is below 1.

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Scientists have not released a UK-wide R number this week as they said country-wide estimates are now less meaningful and may not accurately reflect the current situation.

In a trend described as “encouraging” by statisticians, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 has also fallen across all the home nations and the number of infections per population is also tumbling.

Around one in 480 people in England are estimated to have had coronavirus in the week ending 10 April, down from one in 340 the previous week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

It is the lowest figure since the week to 19 September last year.

In Scotland, this figure is one in 500, down from one in 410, and in Wales it is one in 920, down from one in 800.

Northern Ireland is estimated to have one infection per 710 people – a huge seven-day drop from one in 300.

Despite the overall positive news, there is still huge variation between different regions.

The North West had the highest proportion of people of any region in England likely to test positive for coronavirus at around one in 260.

In the South West, only around one in 1,150 were likely to have the virus.

Among different age groups in England, coronavirus rates have decreased in most groups except secondary school children and people aged 50 to 69, where the trend is uncertain.

Pupils use a hand sanitisation station at Sullivan Upper School in Holywood Image: Cases have dropped in most age groups except secondary school students and people aged 50 to 69

In further evidence of the falling infection levels in the UK, Germany has said it will be taking the country off the list of at-risk regions.

It means people will face less strict travel restrictions as the UK is no longer considered to be an area with high coronavirus incidence levels.

The change will take effect from Sunday.

The four UK nations have been gradually easing their lockdowns as cases continue to fall.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland each loosened restrictions on Monday, with pubs and shops allowed to reopen across England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the country must continue to meet four tests for the lockdown to ease further: a successful vaccine deployment programme; coronavirus hospital admissions and death rates under control; infections not putting pressure on the NHS, and the risk assessment not changed by variants.

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