Health

Coronavirus R rate could be as high as 1.2, symptom app predicts


THE CORONAVIRUS R rate could be “as high as 1.2” according to data from the Covid Symptom Tracker app.

It comes as Boris Johnson this afternoon banned gatherings of more than six people in a fresh crackdown on Covid-19 that could last six months.

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Restrictions have been imposed on places such as Bolton

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Restrictions have been imposed on places such as Bolton

It comes after further restrictions were imposed in places like Bolton, which has witnessed a surge in cases.

Health secretary Matt Hancock this week stressed the government had the virus under control, despite a rise in cases.

On Sunday it was reported that cases of the virus in the UK had reached 2,988 – the highest level since May.

While cases are higher than they have been, experts said it is because we are testing more people than we did at the height of the crisis.

At the start of lockdown a limited amount of tests meant that more than 40 per cent came back positive.

This has now plummeted to just 2.3 per cent across the community and 0.5 per cent in hospitals, Public Health England data revealed.

This equates to around one in 50 people testing positive in test centres.

It also means that just one in 200 hospital patients who get swabbed actually have the virus. 

The app suggests that there are currently 3,164 daily new cases of the virus on average over the two weeks up to 4 September 2020 and that the R rate sits at around 1.2.

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The map above shows last week's official R rate - according to government data
The map above shows last week’s official R rate – according to government data

This figure excludes care homes.

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London said local and regional restrictions could quell the spread of the virus before it gets out of control.

He said: “We are now seeing a significant increase in cases in the UK with over 3,000 daily new symptomatic cases, and an estimated R value of 1.2.

“This uptick in numbers is concerning and if we don’t get the R value down in the coming weeks, we could be looking at another national lock down, which none of us want.

“Before taking that step, we need to use local and regional restrictions to slow the spread and get the numbers back down.”

Data from the app predicts the amount of cases of the virus in the UK

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Data from the app predicts the amount of cases of the virus in the UK Credit: ZOE App

He added that the app’s data highlights that cases are “rising disproportionately” in the North of England, Scotland and Wales in comparison to the South.

Data from the app also revealed that there are currently 30,948 people with symptomatic Covid in the UK.

When the R value is below 1, it means transmission is low and the epidemic is shrinking – but greater than that number suggests it’s growing.

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.

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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

The values are shown as a range, which means the true R rate most likely lies somewhere between the upper and lower estimates.

Experts warn that as Covid cases are much lower than they were at the peak of the pandemic, the R rate is more sensitive to even small outbreaks.

They also caution that there is a delay in the estimates as scientists use a range of data sources, which can take time to collate.

Data published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which advises the government, last week revealed that the R rate for the UK as a whole is somewhere between 0.9-1.1.

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