Coronavirus: UK's R number now below one, says leading scientist

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The unofficial data suggested the R number in the UK was 0.9 (PA)
The unofficial data suggested the R number in the UK was 0.9 (PA)

The R number has fallen below one in the UK, according to the head of the COVID Symptom Study.

Professor Tim Spector, from King’s College London, said the data they had gathered from their app, which has more than four million users, showed the R number in the UK was now 0.9.

He said the number of coronavirus infections was falling in all four nations of the UK.

If the R number has fallen below one then it means the epidemic is shrinking in the UK and daily infections will begin to fall.

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England has been in a second lockdown for a week, while the other three nations of the UK have also been in lockdowns of their own, with Wales leaving theirs at the start of the week.

England is due to leave its lockdown on 2 December and return to a regional strategy.

Prof Spector noted numbers were still high but added that “nevertheless it’s all going in the right direction”.

The COVID Symptom Study is an unofficial estimate but predicts that some 35,963 people are catching coronavirus each day in Britain, down from around 44,000 per day at the end of October.

Spector said the UK was still in for a tough winter. (PA)
Prof Spector said the UK was still in for a tough winter. (PA)

The case number estimate was calculated with data gathered from their study.

There were 22,950 new cases of coronavirus in the UK on Wednesday according to the government, although the real number is likely to be higher.

The latest official figures from last week predicted the R number in the UK is between 1.1 to 1.3, which would indicate the epidemic is still growing although slower than it was in October.

Coronavirus numbers are still very high across the UK and deaths are beginning to catch up.

There were 595 new deaths from coronavirus recorded on Wednesday which tipped the UK to over 50,000 deaths.

A total of 149,253 people tested positive for COVID-19 in England in the week to 4 November, an 8% increase on the previous week, the highest figure since NHS Test and Trace was launched.

Watch: Professor Jonathan Van-Tam uses 'mum test' to reassure Britons over vaccine safety

Prof Spector said the biggest drops in infections were seen in Scotland and the north-west of England, where rates were now similar to what they were at the beginning of October.

He added London “is looking like it’s going to start going down”.

But the numbers were going the wrong way in the Midlands, Prof Spector said, but didn’t know why.

The COVID Symptom Study and its partnering app is a not-for-profit initiative that was set up at the start of the pandemic.

Read more: Pub landlord defends lockdown competitive eating contest as 'elite sport'

The app was launched with the health science company ZOE and King’s College London.

The daily information gathered is sent to the government and the NHS.

Prof Spector said the Pfizer vaccine showed “great promise” meaning there is an “end in sight”.

He warned that the vaccine news did little to help the situation right now and the UK was still set for a tough winter.

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The government has pinned all its hopes on a successful vaccine in order to bring the coronavirus crisis to a final end.

Vaccinating enough of the population to get rid of the virus presents a significant logistical challenge.

On top of all of that there is also a large amount of skepticism around a vaccine due to the speed it has been produced.

Read more: Jacob Rees-Mogg calls anti-vaxxers 'nutters'

Health secretary Matt Hancock said the military and NHS staff are on standby to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine across the UK from the start of December and will work “seven days a week”, with GPs, new vaccination centres and pharmacists all playing a role.

Government plans would see the elderly and healthcare workers prioritised before slowly moving down the age groups before everyone was vaccinated.

Watch: BioNTech founder behind coronavirus vaccine says first UK patients could get jab next month

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