July 31, 2020 / 11:22 AM / 10 days ago

UK science advisers not confident English R rate is below 1

LONDON (Reuters) - UK scientists are no longer confident that the reproduction number of the coronavirus in England is below 1, the government said on Friday, even as latest estimates suggested it was, due to time lags in the data.

A woman wearing a protective mask walks down the street, as the city and surrounding area faces local restrictions in an effort to avoid a local lockdown being forced upon the area, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Manchester, Britain, July 31, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington

The reproduction, or R, number, a closely watched metric of whether an epidemic is growing, was published shortly before Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed the next step in the easing of lockdown, citing rising infection rates.

The number of infections in the community is on the rise for the first time since May, a survey by Britain’s Office for National Statistics showed on Friday.

“Models that use COVID-19 testing data that have less of a time delay have recently suggested higher values for R in England,” the Government Office for Science said in a statement which said the R value for England was 0.8-1.0.

“For this reason, SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) does not have confidence that R is currently below 1 in England.”

For the UK as a whole, the R rate rose to 0.8-0.9, from the 0.7-0.9 figure published last week.

In the North West, the R rate was 0.8-1.1. On Thursday night, Britain imposed tougher lockdowns across swathes of northern England after a rise in the rate of coronavirus transmissions.

Below is a table of regional R numbers. An R number below one indicates a pandemic is shrinking. The growth rate indicates the daily pace of change of infections.

UK 0.8-0.9 -4 to -1

0.8-1.0 -4 to -1

East of 0.7-1.0 -6 to -1

England

London 0.8-1.0 -4 to 0

0.7-0.9 -6 to -2

North East 0.7-0.9 -6 to -2

and Yorkshire

North West 0.8-1.1 -5 to +1

0.8-1.0 -3 to 0

South West 0.8-1.1 -4 to +1

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison/Guy Faulconbridge

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