East of England ‘R’ number is lowest in the country

On Friday, the Government Office for Science said the R value in England is 0.8-1.0. Picture: SARAH

On Friday, the Government Office for Science said the R value in England is 0.8-1.0. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Coronavirus is retreating faster in the east of England than anywhere else in the country, scientists estimated on Friday.

By modelling how many people each person with coronavirus infects, scientists work out the “R” value.

If the R value is less than one, the disease will decline as each person is infecting less than one person on average. If it is more than one, it will spread.

On Friday, the Government Office for Science said the R value in England was between 0.8 and 1.0.

Matt Keeling, professor of populations and disease at the University of Warwick, said that meant there was little “wiggle room” to ease the lockdown.


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The government also published regional values for R - but these came with a warning from experts that they are becoming less relevant.

The south-west of England has the highest R value range at 0.8-1.1, while the east of England has the lowest at 0.7-0.9.

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London, the Midlands, the north-west and the south-east have R values of 0.8-1.0, and the north-east and Yorkshire are at 0.7-1.0.

Experts say R is not the only important measure. The number of people currently infected with Covid-19 - and so able to pass it on - is also crucial.

Professor Keeling added: “All the ranges are similar and overlapping so we cannot say that any one region is worse than any other region.

“All the ranges are closer to the critical threshold of R=1 than we would ideally like to see - which means that the epidemic is declining relatively slowly.

“This also means we haven’t got much wiggle room for additional relaxation of social distancing measures.”

He added: “As the number of cases becomes smaller in many regions, these predictions will become more uncertain and more biased by small localised outbreaks.

“These are not a measure of risk, they are about the decline of the epidemic.

“To understand risk you need to look at both the incidence of infection and individual behaviour.”

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