R number rises again with infections highest since second wave peak

·2-min read
People wear face masks as they exit Piccadilly Circus underground station (AP)
People wear face masks as they exit Piccadilly Circus underground station (AP)

The R number in England has risen yet again to between 1.1 and 1.3, according to the UK Heath Security Agency.

The figure was as high as 1.2 last Friday which indicates Covid infections are growing at their fastest rate in months.

An R number between 1.1 and 1.3 means every 10 people who test positive for coronavirus will go on to infect between 11 and 13 others.

Any R rate above one means the epidemic is growing.

Infections have risen across the UK and reached their highest level since early January, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

Figures show one in 50 are infected, up from one in 55 the previous week, equivalent to around 1.1 million people.

It is the same proportion of people thought to have Covid at the peak of the second wave in January.

Professor Jim Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, and professor of structural biology at the University of Oxford, said he hopes England’s infection level has peaked, but warned that the country is “running very hot”.

The south west of England has seen a huge spike in cases (PA)
The south west of England has seen a huge spike in cases (PA)

He said: “If England has peaked, then other numbers will start to fall. I certainly hope so - 1,000 people every day are ending up in hospital and 1,000 a week dying. We are running very ‘hot’.”

In Wales, the level is at its highest since estimates began in summer last year.

Despite the prevalence of Covid across the four nations, hospital admissions and deaths remain well below levels seen during the second wave in January.

This is said to be largely due to the vaccine rollout.

For the week to October 22, one in 40 people in Wales were thought to have the virus and one in 75 in Northern Ireland and Scotland - according to ONS data.

The latest government figures show 8,914 patients were in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 on October 27, up 9% on the previous week.

However, this is still well below levels seen during the second wave when hospital numbers peaked at 39,254 on January 18.

A total of 1,060 deaths had been reported in the seven days to October 28 of people who died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.

This is the highest seven-day total since March 12 but remains below the second wave peak of 8,739 in the seven days to January 23.

The ONS said the percentage of people testing positive remains highest for those in school years 7 to 11, at 9.1%.

The estimates come as students are being encouraged to get tested before returning to school after the October half-term.

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