Coronavirus R rate up for second week in a row – as UK hits 1
THE coronavirus R rate is up for the second week in a row – with the overall average for the UK reaching 1.
New data has revealed that almost every region of England is now pushing the crucial value, which could suggest the epidemic is growing.
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When the value is below one, it means transmission of the virus is no longer high.
The reality is the true R rate probably lies somewhere between the upper and lower estimates.
Government advisers say that the latest 'growth rate' shows that the epidemic is continuing to shrink.
This measurement reflects how quickly the number of infections are changing day-by-day.
What does R rate mean?
R0, or R nought, refers to the average number of people that one infected person can expect to pass the coronavirus on to.
Scientists use it to predict how far and how fast a disease will spread – and the number can also inform policy decisions about how to contain an outbreak.
For example, if a virus has an R0 of three, it means that every sick person will pass the disease on to three other people if no containment measures are introduced.
It's also worth pointing out that the R0 is a measure of how infectious a disease is, but not how deadly
It is an approximation of the change of number of infections each day, according to Government experts.
If the growth rate is greater than zero (positive), then the disease will grow, but less than zero then the disease will shrink.
A Sage spokesperson said: "The current growth rate for the UK as a whole is -4 per cent to -1 per cent and the R estimate for the UK, as a whole, remains at 0.7-0.9.
"It is important to recognise that the values are shown as a range, the most likely true values are somewhere towards the middle of this range.
"Meanwhile a 'growth rate' of -4 per cent to -1 per cent means the number of new infections is shrinking by between 1 and 4 per cent every day."
Close to the brink
Experts say that the while it is "reassuring" to see the R rate below or equal to one, they remain very much on the brink.
Dr Yuliya Kyrychko, a mathematician at University of Sussex, said: “It is very reassuring to see the R number estimates to be below or equal to one in all regions.
“At the same time, the fact that it is so close to one, and that the growth rates in the East of England and the South West are estimated to be up to +2 per cent suggests that it is very important to stay vigilant and continue with monitoring and efficient tracking of suspected cases to avoid a possibility of overlooking an outbreak.
“Recent examples from the UK and overseas show that once the restrictions are lifted, it may take some time for infections to pick up again, hence, particular care should be taken with interpreting the data, and collecting and analysing it quickly and at a local level.”
Speed of transmission
The R rate gives an indication of whether or not the Covid-19 outbreak is growing. Above one, and it's a sign the epidemic is spreading, while below one indicates an outbreak in decline.
But critics of the R rate have pointed out it does not tell us how quickly an epidemic is changing.
That's why the Government introduced the new growth rate measure,which gives insight on the size and speed of change, whereas the R rate only gives information on the direction of change.
Neither one measures is deemed better by the Government, but "each provide information that is useful in monitoring the spread of disease".
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One thing to note is as the number of infections fall, the measures do become less useful, the number of new cases of the disease, for example.
Dr Kyrychko explained: "As the number of confirmed cases becomes smaller, the estimates of the growth rate and the R number become more sensitive in a sense that even a relatively small local outbreak can have a major effect on increasing the R number."
She said while the R rate is important, it is crucial to have a detailed breakdown of cases at a local level, "so community transmission can be quickly identified and contained".
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