UK’s R number falls to four-month low, estimate suggests

The estimated R number for coronavirus is between 0.8 and 1.0 in the UK – its lowest level since August.

R represents the average number of people each person with COVID goes on to infect.

The growth rate, which estimates how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, indicates the number of new infections is shrinking by between 1% and 3% every day.

It comes as the UK surpassed 60,000 infections on Thursday, reporting a further 14,879 cases and 414 deaths.

Last week, the estimated R number was between 0.9 and 1.0, which suggests the rate has fallen slightly.

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An outbreak can grow exponentially when the figure is above 1.

This week’s estimate means that on average every 10 people infected will infect between eight and 10 other people.

Since coronavirus restrictions across the four UK nations now vary, the estimate of R for the entire country has become less meaningful in recent weeks.

It marks the first time since early September that all English regions have had a lower limit of R estimates below 1.

This week’s estimates are based on the latest data available up to 1 December, with most of the impact of the second national lockdown in England from 5 November now reflected in the data.

The stricter COVID measures, which were lifted on Wednesday, suggest the estimates will continue to decline further next week.

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The estimates for R and the growth rate are provided by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which is a sub-group of SAGE.

SAGE said Friday’s figures represented the average situation over the past few weeks rather than the current situation.

Boris Johnson told the Commons today the virus “has not been eradicated” following the R number estimate.

He said: “The national measures which are now shortly ending in England have eased the burden of the NHS and begun to reverse the advance of the virus – today the R is back below 1 and the ONS survey’s showing that signs of the infection rate are levelling off.

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COVID-19 infections down across most of UK

“Imperial College London has found that the number of people with COVID has fallen by a third in England since 2 November.

“But while the virus has been contained, it has not been eradicated.”