The growth rate of Covid-19 transmission in the UK has dropped slightly in the last week, new figures published by the Government show.
Data released on Friday revealed the growth rate has dropped to between minus 5% and minus 2% per day, compared with a rate of minus 6% to 0% per day last week.
The growth rate reflects how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day and, as the number of infections decreases, it is a way of keeping track of the virus.
If the growth rate is greater than zero, and therefore positive, then the disease will grow, and if the growth rate is less than zero, then the disease will shrink.
However, there is some regional variation between the figures.
In the East of England, the growth rate rose from between minus 5% to 0% last week, to between minus 4% and plus 1%, indicating the rate of spread of the disease is growing in the area.
The figures come as beauty salons, outdoor pools and outdoor performances gear up to open in the next few days.
In London, the growth rate is between minus 5% and plus 1%, compared to between minus 4% and plus 2% last week.
In the South West, the growth rate dropped from between minus 7% and plus 2% to between minus 6% and plus 1%.
And in England, the growth rate is between minus 4% and minus 1%, compared with between minus 5% and minus 2% last week.
Meanwhile, the current rate of transmission for Covid-19 for the country as a whole remains at less than one.
The R value, which is the number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect, remains unchanged, sitting at between 0.7 and 0.9.
R estimates do not indicate how quickly an epidemic is changing and different diseases with the same R can result in epidemics that grow at very different speeds.
There is also variation in the figures from region to region.
The R rate for England is between 0.8 and 1, up from between 0.8 and 0.9 last week.
In the East of England, the R rate is between 0.7 and 1, up from 0.7 and 0.9 previously.
Meanwhile in the South West, the R rate rose to between 0.7 and 1.1, compared with 0.7 to 1 from last week.
And in London, the R rate dropped to between 0.7 and 1, down from 0.8 and 1.1 previously.
The R values and growth rate elsewhere are:
– Midlands: 0.7 to 0.9, minus 6% to minus 2%, compared with R of 0.8 to 1 and growth rate of minus 4% to 0% last week.
– North East and Yorkshire: 0.7 to 1, minus 5% to minus 1%, compared with R of 0.8 to 1 and growth rate of minus 5% to 0% last week.
– North West: 0.7 to 1, minus 5% to minus 1%, compared with 0.7 to 0.9 and growth rate of minus 4% to 0% last week.
– South East: 0.8 to 1, minus 4% to 0%, compared with R of 0.7 to 1 and growth rate of minus 5% to minus 0%.
The figures were published by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
It said that when case numbers fall to low levels, then “estimates of R and the growth rate become insufficiently robust to inform policy decisions”.
It added: “When case numbers are low uncertainty increases and fluctuations in the data can have a significant impact on the estimates.
“Furthermore, when there is a significant amount of variability across a region, for example due to a local outbreak, then a single average doesn’t accurately reflect the way infections are changing throughout the region.”
Commenting on the figures, Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said: “That the number of cases is falling slightly is to be welcomed.
“This suggests, that so far, relaxation of the lockdown has not precipitated a second wave.
“It has to be emphasised that no one knows what the safe level of relaxation is for the UK and there is a delay between action and consequence. The virus is here and we could easily see a surge in cases if a mistake is made.”
He added: “These numbers also tell us that we are unlikely to eliminate the virus from the UK before the winter.
“In any event the virus has become global, without a vaccine we have to plan for its presence.
“It seems likely that the onset of colder weather will see the virus begin to spread more rapidly.
“We have a short breathing space to get ourselves organised to cope with the winter.”