Infection passed on twice as often in the northeast

“The coronavirus infection rate is twice as big in the northeast and Yorkshire as in London, figures suggest.”

But the quoted figures show the South West is almost as bad – stay alert, spot the small print  – Owl

(And all the decisions are made in London of course)

Kat Lay, Health Correspondent | Charlotte Wace | Francis Elliott 

Every ten people infected in the capital will pass the virus on to only four others. In the northeast and Yorkshire, ten people will pass it on to eight others.

In both cases the R rate — which measures how many people, on average, each infected person will pass the virus on to — is below one, at 0.4 and 0.8 respectively. An R rate of less than one means that the virus will eventually die out.

The figures come from a joint Public Health England (PHE) and University of Cambridge modelling group. Their estimates form the basis of forecasts used by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) and regional PHE teams.

The report suggests that R in eastern England is 0.71, in the Midlands 0.68, in the northwest 0.73, in the southeast 0.71 and in the southwest 0.76. R for the whole of England is about 0.75.

Paul Birrell of the MRC biostatistics unit at Cambridge, who leads the modelling group, told BBC Radio 4’s More or Less that the lower rate in London could be because more residents had been infected. He said: “Currently, the belief of the group in which I work is that London has seen sufficient infection that the very sharp drop we have seen in the number of deaths in London is to some degree attributable to a drop in the pool of susceptible individuals.”

The Office for National Statistics is set to publish the first results from a survey to determine the true infection rate in England today.

The mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool have called on the government to publish official calculations of the R rate at a regional and sub-regional level. More people are in hospital in the northwest with Covid-19 than anywhere else in Britain.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “If we are at greater risk, we need to know what the risk is and make adjustments accordingly. If it’s not safe anywhere, it’s not safe everywhere. If you see a spike of cases in any region, it would quickly pass back from the northwest to the Midlands and back to London. I’m constantly arguing for a national approach to this, but I think we will be able to manage the situation better with the regional breakdown of information.”

Sir Ian Diamond, national statistician, told MPs on the public administration and constitutional affairs committee that “we need to be worried as a nation” about the seeds for a sharp increase in cases being sown as the lockdown is lifted. He said that there had been a reduction in deaths in the community, care homes and hospitals “but not as speedy as we would like”.

He said that a national approach might be replaced with “much more localised strategies” to stop a second peak, adding: “We need therefore to be able to have the data to enable the policy to be made.”

Asked whether he envisioned individual cities having different approaches, he suggested that it could be specific to only one school.

Properly tracking the course of the pandemic, he said, would mean relying on “community spirit” to encourage people to promptly report symptoms.