Official Covid R rate stays stable at 1.2 to 1.4 as cases start to ‘level off’

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ENGLAND’S R Rate gives more evidence the outbreak is stabilising.

The R rate could be as high as 1.4 and is no lower than 1.2, scientists said today, which is the same estimate given for last week.

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The R rate in each region

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The R rate in each region

It came after an infection survey this week suggested early signs the surge in cases recently is levelling off.

The R rate reflects the spread of the virus and indicates how many people one person spreads the disease to.

The last time the range was this level was in October last year, when the second wave was starting to gather pace.

Tiered restrictions were being introduced across the country to cope with rising case rates.

But the UK is now in a much better position, with vaccines holding back hospitalisations and deaths.

The NHS is now on the home stretch of giving out jabs, offering all those over 18 their first dose from today.

It comes as:

The R rate has been going up since February. Pictured: Lesya Warren, left, with Ekaterina Ozcherov and Marina Zherebtsova wear Covid masks at the Royal Ascot Ladies Day, June 17

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The R rate has been going up since February. Pictured: Lesya Warren, left, with Ekaterina Ozcherov and Marina Zherebtsova wear Covid masks at the Royal Ascot Ladies Day, June 17Credit: AP

R rate by region

The R rate at 1.2 to 1.4 means that, on average, every 10 people with Covid will infect between 12 and 14 other people.

An R rate below 1 is good as it means Covid patients are not passing the virus on to many more people, and the spread of the virus is slowing down. 

On February 12, 2021, Sage said the R rate in the UK had fallen below 1. But it has been increasing ever since. 

The North West has the highest R rate, between 1.3 and 1.5, which reflects the fact it has been a Delta variant hotspot for several weeks.

The lowest R rate estimate is for the Midlands, South East and North East and Yorkshire, all at 1.0 to 1.3.

Sage – the Government advisory panel – also said the growth rate of the outbreak in England was between +3% to +6%.

This means that, on an average day, the outbreak is growing by three to six per cent.

This week, Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins said if the Delta variant was “unmitigated” and left to spread without any measures, the R number could be “greater than five and maybe up to seven”.

What is the R rate?

THE R rate, also known as the reproduction number, helps the government measure the rate of coronavirus infections.

It gives an indication of the number of people that one person with coronavirus is likely to pass it on to.

The R rate is the average number of secondary infections produced by a single infected person.

If a virus has an R rate of three, it means that every sick person will pass the disease on to three other people if no containment measures are introduced.

But when social contact is reduced, with lockdown measures, it slashes the R rate because people see less friends and family to pass the virus onto.

It will also come down as a result of vaccinations, removing the need for social restrictions.

Measles has an R number of 15 in populations without immunity, which is very high.

Different Covid variants also impact the R number. For example, Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins said if the Delta variant was “unmitigated” and left to spread without any measures, the R number could be “greater than five and maybe up to seven”, while the “original” strain from China is thought to have an R rate of between two and three.

Updates to the R rate are published on the government website.

The R rate used to be given for the UK but Sage – the scientific advisory group to the Government – says there is too much uncertainty in the figure to publish anymore. It currently only gives R for England.

Glimmer of hope

It comes as no surprise after a raft of data has shown a worsening situation this week, including three separate studies that track the oubtreak.

The latest, from the Office for National Statistics, said one in 520 people in England had Covid in the week to June 12 – the highest since April 10.

It came after the REACT study this week showed infections were “exponential growing”, a trend which scientists said they cannot predict when it will stop.

King’s College London researchers also reported daily new cases had gone up by a third, with around 15,760 new infections per day.

However, the KCL ZOE Covid Symptom Study offered a glimmer of hope the end is in sight.

It’s data – which is the most up to date – shows that although daily cases have gone up by a third, this is a smaller jump than the week prior, when it doubled.

This suggests the rate of growth has slowed.

Prof Tim Spector, lead scientist of the study, said: “The numbers this week seem to be slowing down, which is good news.

“Worrying areas with a high number of cases like Scotland, and the North West are starting to level off.

“I’m predicting based on past experience, that although we may not have reached the peak quite yet, within 2 weeks we will see cases beginning to drop again.”

Young and unjabbed

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said the increase across the UK is being driven by younger age groups.

As Covid restrictions have largely eased in recent weeks, younger people have been able to socially mix before getting a vaccine.

Dr Harries said: “Cases are rising rapidly across the country and the Delta variant is now dominant.

“The increase is primarily in younger age groups, a large proportion of which were unvaccinated but are now being invited to receive the vaccine.”

Dr Harries said it was “encouraging to see that hospitalisations and deaths are not rising at the same rate” as cases.

There has been a 43 per cent increase in the number of people admitted to UK hospitals in the past seven days.

But the numbers per day, an average of 222, are still low compared to the thousands seen at the peak of the first and second wave.

And the increase in hosptial rates are not in tandem with case rates, as they have been before, thanks to vaccines.

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