Covid R rate could be at 1 across England, Sage figures show

The crucial R-rate for coronavirus could now be at 1 across England, government scientists have said.

The R-number, or reproduction number, represents the average number of people infected by each person with Covid-19. Any number above one means the virus is spreading.

According to government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) the R-value for England is between 0.8 and 1, a rise from 0.7 to 0.9 last week.

This is the second successive week where the R-rate has increased.

An R number between 0.8 and 1 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between eight and 10 other people.

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Sage did not agree a UK-wide R-rate this week as each nation within the UK lifted restrictions at different rates making R a less meaningful measure, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

The latest R calculations were based on data up to 29 March and according to the data the growth rate for the virus was between minus 4 per cent and zero. This means the number of new infections could either be stable or falling by 4 per cent every day.

The DHSC said: “The upper bound of the estimated range for R values is at 1 for all seven NHS regions of England, reflecting a flattening in transmission across the country. There remains significant variation in transmission locally within regions, with indications of potential levelling off or growth in some areas and communities.”

It added: “The overall data for England shows that cases and transmission are levelling off. The government expects cases will begin to increase as we move through the roadmap, but as we continue with our remarkable vaccination programme we are going to protect the most vulnerable and prevent people from contracting serious illness, while reducing pressure on the NHS.

“As R is a measure that lags by two to three weeks, the latest figures cannot account for the most recent policy changes, and do not yet reflect the full impact of the re-opening of schools in England.”

The latest R-rate data comes as the government has banned more foreign travel between some countries with the Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya and Bangladesh added to England’s “red list” as of next Friday, the Department for Transport has said.

It means passengers arriving from or who have transited through these countries will be banned from entering unless they are a British or Irish national or are a resident in the UK.

Those returning home to England will be required to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days, and must take a Covid-19 test on day two and day eight of their self-isolation.

Travel bans have been introduced to protect against new variants of Covid-19.

The majority of cases of the South African variant detected in England so far were linked to international travel.

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