Coronavirus R rate range creeps up across England after lockdown restrictions eased

Will Taylor
News Reporter
Passengers wearing face masks as lockdown eased in England, with the newest data on the country's R number being released today. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

The R rate across England’s regions has crept up as the coronavirus restrictions eased further, new data shows.

The government has used R to assess whether the epidemic is in decline in the country – which would mean R is below 1 – or increasing, which would put R above 1.

While every region is given a low and high estimate for their R, every region except the Midlands is shown to have a value of at least 1 at the upper estimate.

The South West’s upper estimate is 1.1, data shows, the only region above 1, while England’s value as a whole is 0.8 – 1.

The latest figures come as further restrictions have been eased for England, with customers enjoying their first week of pubs reopening and gyms set to welcome back fitness fans.

The government’s website shows the UK’s R as a whole is between 0.7 and 0.9. The nationwide growth rate, which reflects how quickly the number of infections are changing each day, has dropped to between -5% and -2% per day, compared with -6% to 0% per day last week.

The website breaks down England’s regions to show their estimated R range and the growth rate.

The new R estimates and growth rates of England and its regions. (gov.uk)

The Midlands, which has the lowest top estimate, saw the first local lockdown in England, with Leicester being placed back into tougher restrictions. Its infection rate has dropped.

Expert have said the new figures should not be a cause of alam. Dr Yuliya Kyrychko, Reader in Mathematics at the University of Sussex, said: “The changes in the R number in England and the UK overall are very small when compared to last week’s values to talk about any significant differences in the dynamics of epidemic.

“The fact that so far we have not observed a large growth in the number of cases, even with some of the restrictions being lifted, is a very good sign, though we should continue to exercise caution and maintain social distancing measures in order to minimise the potential of subsequent local outbreaks.”

Prof John Edmunds, Professor in the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Overall, R is probably a little below 1, but this is an overall estimate and masks quite a lot of variability due to local outbreaks. Also, there may be some evidence of more systematic variability in different parts of the UK, with Scotland and Wales probably having reproduction numbers towards the bottom end of the range observed for England, for instance.”

Fears about the impact of reopening pubs were raised when images appeared of gatherings of people on the same day watering holes allowed customers back in.

The Police Federation chairman, John Apter, said it was “crystal clear” drunk people cannot socially distance.

Meanwhile, England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries told ITV’s This Morning she is “very, very concerned” about a second wave of the coronavirus and urged people to take steps now, such as losing weight, ahead of a possible resurgence later in the winter.

She said the weather might have helped slow the spread, with people heading outdoors, which is safer than being inside, but was concerned the second wave could come from autumn.

However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that its estimate of how many people were infected with coronavirus in England had halved from its previous estimate last week.

The period covered 22 June and 5 July, in which the ONS thought an average of 14,000 people had it at any given moment, compared to the 25,000 people it thought had COVID-19 at any point between 14 June and 27 June.

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