COVID reproduction “R” rate now at lowest number since mid-August, Sage says
It offers further hope infections are starting to be brought under control
Separate ONS research also indicates cases in England dropped by about 140,000 in a fortnight
The UK’s coronavirus reproduction “R” rate has fallen for a second successive week – and is at its lowest number in nearly four months.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the R number is now between 0.8 and 1.0, down from 0.9 and 1.0 last week.
This is the lowest R since 7 and 14 August, when it was also between 0.8 and 1.0. It went as high as between 1.3 and 1.6 on 2 October.
Friday’s update offers further hope the spread of COVID-19 infections is starting to be brought under control following England’s four-week national lockdown. On Wednesday, this was replaced by the three-tier system of local restrictions.
R represents the average number of people each COVID-positive person goes on to infect. When the figure is above 1.0, an outbreak can grow exponentially.
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The latest R of between 0.8 and 1.0 means that on average, every 10 people with COVID will infect between eight and 10 other people.
Of England’s regions, the North East and Yorkshire and North West have the lowest R rate: between 0.7 and 0.9. London and the South East have the highest: between 0.9 and 1.1.
It follows more positive research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released earlier on Friday.
The latest ONS infection survey estimated there were 521,300 people in England with COVID between 22 and 28 November: down from 633,000 between 15 and 21 November and 664,700 between 8 and 14 November.
It comes as the NHS said the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – which was approved by the UK regulator on Wednesday – will be administered on Tuesday.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said it will be “a marathon, it’s not a sprint”, telling BBC Breakfast: “We’re looking forward to the race starting on Tuesday.”
Meanwhile, the UK regulator has defended itself against criticism from America’s top infectious disease expert, saying it has “rigorously assessed the data” for the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.
Dr Anthony Fauci suggested the UK approved the vaccine too quickly and that it could harm people’s trust in the jab. He said of Britain’s processes compared to those of the US: “The UK did not do it as carefully.”
In its response, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it had carefully assessed all the data on the vaccine and no “standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been bypassed”.
In a later interview with BBC News, Dr Fauci said he did not mean to “imply any sloppiness”, adding: “I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community at the UK.”
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