COVID 'R' rate rises again amid talk of tougher measures

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read
A pedestrian some wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walks past Coronavirus information signs in Walthamstow in north east London on December 23, 2020. - Britain's public health service urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday to extend the country's Brexit transition period or risk pushing hospitals already struggling with coronavirus "over the edge" in the event of a no-deal departure from the EU single market. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
The UK's coronavirus reproduction 'R' rate has risen again. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)
  • COVID reproduction ‘R’ rate jumps slightly to between 1.1 and 1.3

  • It comes as spread of mutant coronavirus continues

  • R above 1.0 means outbreak can grow exponentially

  • Visit the Yahoo homepage for more stories

The UK’s coronavirus reproduction “R” rate has slightly increased as the new COVID-19 variant continues to spread.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the R number is now between 1.1 and 1.3, up from 1.1 and 1.2 on Friday.

R represents the average number of people each COVID-positive person goes on to infect. When the figure is above 1.0, an outbreak can grow exponentially.

The latest R of between 1.1 and 1.3 means that on average, every 10 people with COVID will infect between 11 and 13 other people.

Watch: Nervtag chair discusses COVID-19 mutation

It is the highest figure since 6 November, when R was also between 1.1 and 1.3 and England’s national lockdown had just started.

Of England’s regions, the East and London have the highest R: between 1.2 and 1.5. The North East and Yorkshire and the North West have the lowest R: between 0.9 and 1.1.

Wednesday’s update follows suggestions of tougher measures to contain the spread of the mutant coronavirus. The new strain is up to 70% more transmissible than the original.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick acknowledged “it may be necessary to take further action” to curb rising case numbers.

There has been speculation more areas of England could join parts of London, the South East and East in the newly created – and most severe – Tier 4.

The current tier levels in England are due to be reviewed on 30 December, but that could be accelerated.

Genomic researchers have found the new strain has already spread around the UK, with cases identified in Wales and Scotland.

On Tuesday, the government announced the highest ever daily number of lab-confirmed COVID infections in the UK: 36,804.

However, a report by Cambridge University scientists released on Monday estimated 91,100 people are being infected every day in England alone.

Read more:

The Tier 4 COVID lockdown rules explained

The Tier 3 COVID lockdown rules explained

The Tier 2 COVID lockdown rules explained

Watch: What is long COVID?