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Coronavirus: regional 'R' rate still below 1 - but rising

The 'R' rate for the east of England has risen closer to 1, according to the latest research.
The 'R' rate, which measures the spread of infection, has risen in the east of England (Picture: PA Media)

The latest research from the University of Cambridge and Public Health England (PHE) put the 'R' rate in the east of England at 0.94.

Previously, the reproduction rate was between 0.5 and 0.8, so there has been an increase as lockdown measures have been lifted - but the region still has the third lowest 'R' number in the country. The highest is in the north west, at 1.01.

The 'R' rate is the best estimate of how many people will be infected by one person who is known to have coronavirus. When the number is below one, the rate of infection is dropping. When the number is above one, the rate of infection is increasing.

A PHE spokesperson said: "It is important to note that the confidence intervals have also increased and show a wide degree of uncertainty.

"While the R numbers appear to have increased, they remain below 1, which is the point at which infections begin to accelerate. We will therefore continue to see an overall decline in the number of infections while the R number remains below 1. R should be considered alongside incidence. A region may have a higher value of R but a lower number of cases than another region with a lower value of R."

Secretary of Health Matt Hancock failed to explain what the Government’s plan will be if the R number goes back up above one in yesterday's Downing Street press conference.

Labour’s Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) said: “The Secretary of State says they are taking a safety-first approach in government and yet Professor John Edmunds has expressed concern that if we relax the infection will come back very fast.

“What is he going to do if the R number does drift back above one?”

Mr Hancock said: “I don’t want to see the R number go above one. I spoke to Professor Edmunds at the weekend as it happens and if he, like I, saw what the professor had to say at the weekend, he said that quite rightly a cautious approach is what is needed but there is scope to be able to allow some opening up according to the plan that we’ve got.”

Replying to Lib Dem Munira Wilson’s (Twickenham) claim there are still some care homes where residents and staff have yet to be tested, Mr Hancock said “almost 9,000 care homes got kits for all of their staff and residents to be tested”.

He added: “The important thing is that did not show a huge amount of infections that we didn’t previously otherwise know about.”