Coronavirus: R number could be greater than one in London, southwest and northwest


The reproduction rate of coronavirus (The R-number) could have swung above 1.0 in three parts of England, meaning the spread of the virus could now increase rather than decrease.

The R-number for the UK as a whole rose from 0.8 to 1.0, up from the previous week’s number of 0.8 to 0.9.

Sage – the government’s science advisory group for emergencies – says it “doesn’t trust R is currently less than 1 in England” because of a lag in the data the group uses to make estimates.

Estimated figures for regions of England reveal that the R-number could be over 1.0 in London, in the South West and North West.

Regional R numbers

  • England 0.8 to 1.0

  • East of England 0.7 to 0.9

  • London 0.8 to 1.1

  • Midlands 0,8 à 1,0

  • North East and Yorkshire 0.8 to 1.0

  • Northwest 0.8 to 1.1

  • Southeast 0.8 to 1.0

  • Southwest 0.8 to 1.1

An R number of less than 1.0 is crucial for scientists to be sure that the prevalence of the coronavirus is declining in Britain.

If the number is greater than 1.0, it means that each person infected with the virus will transmit it to more than 1.0 person.

For example, if the number is 1.1, it means that every person with coronavirus passes it on to 1.1 people.

When the UK was under full nationwide lockdown, ministers said the R-number had to be consistently below 1.0 before restrictions could be lifted.

A a local lockdown has already been put in place over large parts of the northwest and the estimated number of Rs in the South West and London will be of concern to local officials who hope to avoid further restrictions.

The latest growth rate range for the UK is 0% to -5%.

A growth rate of between 0% and -5% means that the number of new infections is between maintaining stability and decreasing by 5% each day.

But there is a lot of fluctuation in the estimated growth rates for the regions of England.

The growth rate reflects how quickly the number of infections changes from day to day.

This is an approximation of the percentage change in the number of infections each day.

If the growth rate is greater than zero (+ positive), the epidemic will develop. If the growth rate is less than zero (- negative), the epidemic recedes.

Regional growth rates

  • England -3 to 0

  • East of England -4 to -1

  • London -4 to +1

  • Midlands -3 à 0

  • North East and Yorkshire -4 to 0

  • North-West -3 to +1

  • South-East -4 to 0

  • South-West -3 to +3

The NHS has warned that R numbers and growth rates should be taken with a pinch of salt in certain situations.

He said that estimates of R “become insufficiently robust to inform policy decisions” when “the number of cases falls to low levels and / or there is a high degree of variability of transmission in a region”.

The NHS said this was the case in the east of England, London, the Midlands, the North East and Yorkshire and the South West.

It comes as new figures from the ONS show the percentage of individuals testing positive for Covid-19 has increased since the lockdown was lifted at the end of June, but there is now evidence to suggest that this trend may have stabilized.


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