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15 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Crucial “R“ number has risen to between 0.7 and 1, government says

By Samuel Horti

The reproduction rate of the coronavirus, called the “R” number, has risen since last week and currently sits between 0.7 and 1, the government has said.

Ministers have stressed the importance of keeping the number below 1. It is a measure of how many people someone with the virus goes on to infect – a value of greater than 1 will mean new daily cases increase, potentially leading to an exponential spread of the virus.

Based on the latest evidence, the number is somewhere between 0.7 and 1, but varies substantially between regions, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said. Last week, the government said R was between 0.5 and 0.9.

Scientists in Sage said the infection rate was falling in the community, and that the epidemic was largely confined to care homes and hospital settings.

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A Public Health England study published overnight suggested R was as low as 0.4 in London. But Professor Matt Keeling, who sits on Sage’s modelling sub-group, said he was “extremely worried” that people might think London could soon be coronavirus-free.

“If people think London is coronavirus-free that could be dangerous, and could lead to complacency, undermining all the struggles and sacrifices that everyone has made so far. A relaxation of vigilance could easily see R increasing above 1, and a second epidemic wave,” he told the BBC.

(Image credit: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images)