Calls for local lockouts as study finds R-value greater than 1 in north-west England

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The government is under pressure to introduce tougher local closings in some areas, as new research has shown that the R-value is increasing across England and has exceeded 1 in the north-west for the first time since peak l coronavirus epidemic.

This development raises fears that a return to a tighter physical distance is necessary in certain regions and that the United Kingdom may continue to see hundreds of daily deaths for weeks.

The influential model, from scientists at Public Health England (PHE) and the University of Cambridge, puts R at 1.01 for the northwest and 1 for the southwest. The North West – including Liverpool and Manchester – is of particular concern due to the higher number of infections in this country, which is expected to continue at the current rate.

Regional leaders said they feared the prospect of a second spike in death and that the decision to ease the lock on the national image – bypassing regional hotspots – had been a mistake.

However, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has tried to play down the new study from Cambridge and PHE, which is part of his own department. He stressed that it was fair to facilitate the lockdown and said that the big picture of the government after examining various studies was that the R-value was always less than 1 in all regions.

Participating in the daily press conference of No. 10 without the usual scientific experts at his side, Hancock defended himself against an accusation that the government “selected” the right data in order to justify the relaxation of the restrictions.


What does the “R” number of coronavirus mean? – video explicator
R, or “effective reproductive number,” is a way to assess the ability of a disease to spread. This is the average number of people to whom an infected person will pass the virus. For an R greater than 1, an epidemic will experience exponential growth. Anything less than 1 and an epidemic will go away – eventually.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the estimated R for coronavirus was between 2 and 3 – higher than the value of seasonal influenza, but lower than that of measles. This means that each person would pass it on to between two and three people on average, before recovering or dying, and each of those people would pass it on to two or three other people, causing a snowball over time.

The reproduction number is not fixed, however. It depends on the biology of the virus; people’s behavior, such as social isolation; and public immunity. A country may see regional variations in its R number, depending on local factors such as population density and modes of transport.

Hannah Devlin Scientific correspondent

” The [PHE/Cambridge] the study you mentioned is one, but the overall assessment that is put together by Sage who advises the chief physician is the one I’m looking at, “he said. “What I’m doing is looking at all these different studies and the overall view of Sage is that the R is between 0.7 and 0.9 and it’s higher in the south west of England and the northwest but remains less than 1 in each region. This does not take away from the need to spot and suppress localized epidemics. “

Government scientists have always stated that the lock can only be relaxed if the rate of R – indicating the average number of people to whom an infected person will transmit the virus – remains below 1. If it is higher, this suggests an exponential spread of the virus.

However, separate figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest that there was a halving of the number of people infected across England in the second half of May – although these data do not account for infections in nursing homes and hospitals.

In its latest analysis, the Cambridge-PHE team concludes that R has increased in all regions and is hovering just below or around 1, “probably due to increasing mobility and mixing between households and in public environments and professionals ”, based on current estimates. , the decline in daily deaths could be stopped in mid-June, when there could still be hundreds of deaths a day.

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Paul Birrell of PHE said, “Most worrisome is the northwest where infections are highest in absolute numbers, where there are 4,000 [daily infections] but again there is a fairly large band of uncertainty attached to this. “

Birrell said that an R number of about 1, or higher, “was not necessarily cause for immediate concern” but that further investigation was needed to identify hot spots in the northwest.

The model relies on mortality rates, which means it has an integrated lag and doesn’t capture any additional impact from easing the lockout this week. It’s one of many sources fueling the government’s official estimate of R between 0.7 and 1 on Friday, a slight increase from last week’s figure. A separate analysis by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine modeling team also set the value R to 1 in the southwest, but gave a lower value of 0.8 for the northwest.

At his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Andy Burnham said that weekly cases in Greater Manchester were at their lowest level since the lockout started, with 190 new positive diagnoses for Covid-19. But there were “worrying” statistics: there had been a slight increase in admissions to Covid-19 hospital and people in intensive care.

Burnham told Sky News, “I’m sure people in the northwest will be watching this news and will be very worried about it. “

“I think the lockdown was eased prematurely and if you combine that with the loss of confidence in government public health messages with everything that came out of Dominic Cummings’ situation, I think that’s the situation in which we are currently in. “

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