The Coronavirus R Rate Has Risen This Week

The UK’s Covid R rate has risen to between 0.7 and 0.9, scientists advising the government have said.

It represents an increase after R was estimated to be between 0.6 and 0.9 last week, and suggests coronavirus is spreading slightly more than it was previously.

R measures the number of people, on average, that each sick person will infect.

If R is greater than 1 the epidemic is generally seen to be growing; if R is less than 1 the epidemic is shrinking.

The estimate was published on Friday and provided by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and the Department for Health and Social Care.

Separately, official figures showed the number of people with Covid-19 in homes across England continues to fall.

Ben Birchall/PA Images

People wait in line for a coronavirus test at a surge test centre, set up in a library, to provide additional community testing following the identification of a mutated variant in the Bristol and south Gloucestershire area

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate that around one in 220 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between February 21 and 27 – the equivalent of 248,100 people.

The figure is down from around one in 145, or 373,700 people, for the period February 13 to 19, and is the lowest figure since the week to October 1 when it was one in 240.

However, the number of people infected in England is still high when compared to last summer. In the week to August 25, around one in 2,000 people had coronavirus.

The ONS said the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 in the latest figures had decreased in all regions except for north-east England, the East Midlands and eastern England, where it said the trend was uncertain. 

In Wales, the latest estimate was one in 285, down from 205, and in Northern Ireland it was one in 325, down from one in 195.

The estimate for Scotland for the week to February 27 was around one in 335 people, down from one in 225.

The latest data is based on swab tests from 684,875 people in the UK, regardless of whether they had symptoms, and does not include hospitals and care homes.

It comes after a government scientific adviser said society will need to learn to live with a “substantial” number of Covid-19 deaths.

Professor Andrew Hayward, who sits on Sage, said the number of deaths will continue to drop as vaccination kicks in, and death rates could begin to look more like those for flu.

Other experts, including Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, have said the UK can expect a wave of deaths next winter, mostly among the unvaccinated and those for whom vaccines do not provide total protection.

Prof Hayward told Times Radio: “I think given the societal trade-offs, we are going to have to live with a degree of mortality that will be substantial.

“I think it will get less over time as more people get vaccinated, and as more people get immune, and I do believe that we’ve been through the worst of this.”

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