The UK’s Covid R rate has dropped to between 0.6 and 0.9, scientists advising the government have said.
Last week the R rate was estimated at 0.7 to 0.9, the first time since July it was believed to be below 1.
The lower end of the R estimate published on Friday – 0.6 – is the lowest R range seen since the government first started releasing the figures in May 2020.
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 estimates for R is provided by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and the Department for Health and Social Care.
Downing Street has said Boris Johnson will look at the R rate, among other metrics, when considering how and when to lift lockdown restrictions in England.
The prime minister is due on Monday to unveil a plan for the staged easing of restrictions, as the impact of the vaccination programme on preventing hospitalisations and deaths hopefully begins to be felt.
Schools are expected to be the first part of society to reopen, with March 8 pencilled in as the earliest possible date.
This is expected to be followed by non-essential retail and then hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants.
Here’s what the R rate is in each region
In England as a whole, the R rate is 0.7 to 0.9, while regionally it is as follows:
East of England – 0.6 to 0.8 (Last week 0.7 to 0.9)
London – 0.6 to 0.8 (0.6 to 0.8)
Midlands – 0.6 to 0.9 (0.7 to 0.9)
North-east and Yorkshire – 0.7 to 1.0 (0.8 to 0.9)
North-west – 0.6 to 0.9 (0.7 to 0.9)
South-east – 0.6 to 0.8 (0.7 to 0.8)
South-west – 0.6 to 0.9 (0.7 to 0.9)
In Scotland the latest figures estimate the R rate is between 0.7 and 0.9, the same as last week.
In Wales the R rate has also remained the same, estimated to be between 0.7 and 0.9.
And in Northern Ireland it is estimated to be between 0.7 and 0.8.