England's R-rate May Have Risen Slightly But Covid Cases Continue To Fall Dramatically
The R-rate may have risen slightly in England (PA)
England's R-rate may have risen above 1 according to new official figures released on Friday, but overall cases are estimated to have fallen 40% in a week.
The government's coronavirus advisory group, Sage, estimate the R-rate – the average number of people each infected person passes the disease onto – has risen slightly across England to between 0.8 and 1.1.
Last week's estimate placed the range at between 0.8 and 1.0 for England.
An R rate of above 1 indicates infections could be growing, while a figure below 1 suggests fewer people are being infected.
The current rate would suggest that on average, every 10 people infected will infect between eight and 11 other people.
Across England's regions, the Sage data shows the R-rate could now be above 1 in London, the East of England, the Midlands, Yorkshire, the Norther East and the South East.
However, the group say that low case numbers could make it harder to estimate the true R-rate, saying "uncertainty" around the data was "even more of a problem when calculating R using small numbers of cases, hospitalisations or deaths".
But overall, the number of Covid-19 cases has dropped significantly. New figures from the Office for National Statistics, also published on Friday, show the number of people in England estimated to have the virus has fallen 40% in a week.
According to the data, an estimated 54,200 people were expected to have tested positive in the week ending 24 April, down from 90,000 in the previous seven days.
The new data comes after the latest lockdown easing measures on 12 April, where pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail were allowed to re-open under strict conditions.
Speaking on Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested the falling case numbers meant the UK was still on track for further easing measures set out in the government's roadmap.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine from the University of East Anglia, said the latest infection figures were "reassuring" that the lockdown easing had not impacted the rate of new cases.
"This would be the first week when there would be any evidence that the relaxation of the 12th April would have had a negative impact on the epidemic," he said.
"That there is in fact no evidence of an increased transmission risk is reassuring that for the time being at least it looks like the current Road map is still on target."