The government is under pressure to bring in tougher local lockdowns in some areas, as a new study showed the R value was rising across England and had tipped above 1 in the north-west for the first time since the peak of the coronavirus epidemic.
A separate analysis by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s modelling team also put the R-value at 1 in in the south-west, but gave a lower value of 0.8 for the north-west.
The development raises concerns that a return to stricter physical distancing may be needed in some areas and that the UK could continue to see hundreds of daily deaths for weeks.
The influential model, from scientists at Public Health England (PHE) and the University of Cambridge, puts R at 1.01 for the north-west and 1 for the south-west. The north-west – including Liverpool and Manchester – is viewed as particularly concerning due to higher numbers of infections there, which would be projected to continue at the current rate.
Regional leaders said they feared the prospect of a second spike in deaths and that the decision to ease lockdown based on the national picture – ignoring regional hotspots – had been a mistake.
However, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, attempted to downplay the new study from Cambridge and PHE, which is part of his own department. He insisted it was right to ease the lockdown and claimed that the government’s overall view after looking at various studies was that the R value was still below 1 in all regions.
Appearing at No 10’s daily press briefing without the usual scientific experts alongside him, Hancock defended himself against an accusation that the government was “cherrypicking” good data in order to justify loosening restrictions.
“The [PHE/Cambridge] study you mentioned is one, but the overall assessment that is brought together by Sage that advises the chief medical officer is the one that I look at,” he said. “What I do is look at all of these different studies and the overall view of Sage is that the R is between 0.7 and 0.9 and it is higher in the south-west of England and the north-west but it remains below 1 in each area. That doesn’t take away from the need that we spot and crack down on localised outbreaks.”
The government’s scientists have consistently said the lockdown can only be eased if the R rate – showing the average number of people to whom one infected person will pass the virus – remains below 1. If it is higher, that suggests exponential spread of the virus.
However, separate figures from the Office of National Statistics suggested there was a halving in the number of people infected across England in the second half of May – although this data did not take into account infections in care homes and hospitals.
In their latest analysis, the Cambridge-PHE team conclude that R has risen in all regions and is hovering just below or around 1, “probably due to increasing mobility and mixing between households and in public and workplace settings” and that based on current estimates, the decline in daily deaths could be arrested by mid-June, at which point there could still be hundreds of deaths a day.
Paul Birrell, from the University of Cambridge, said: “More worrying is the north-west where the infections are coming up the highest in absolute number, where there are 4,000 [daily infections] but again there’s quite a large band of uncertainty attached to that.”
Birrell said that an R number of about 1, or above, was “not necessarily a cause for immediate concern” but that further investigation was needed to identify hotspots within the north-west.
The model draws on death rates, meaning it has a built-in lag and does not capture any additional impact of the easing of lockdown this week. It is one of several that feeds into the government’s official estimate of R, which on Friday was between 0.7 and 1, a slight increase on last week’s figure. A separate analysis by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s modelling team also put the R-value at 1 in in the south-west, but gave a lower value of 0.8 for the north-west.
At his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Andy Burnham said weekly cases in Greater Manchester were at their lowest since the start of lockdown, with 190 new positive Covid-19 diagnoses. But there were some “worrying” statistics: there had been a slight increase in Covid-19 hospital admissions and those in intensive care.
Burnham told Sky News: “I’m sure that people across the north-west will be looking at this new information and feeling quite anxious about it. ”
“I think the lockdown was relaxed prematurely and if you combine with that the loss of confidence in the government’s public health messaging with everything that came out of the Dominic Cummings situation, I think this is the situation we are now in.
Steve Rotheram, the mayor of the Liverpool city region, said lockdown was eased too quickly by a London-centric government.
He said: “When the infection rate was at its highest in London and it wasn’t as high here, the government locked down in the interests of the country. The government seem to me to be reopening or unlocking the economy or certainly relaxing the restrictions when it might not be in the interests of the whole country.”
Graham Stringer, a member of the science and technology committee and MP for Blackley and Broughton, said the government had made a fundamental error by concentrating on the national R rate.
The ONS snapshot infection survey, covering the last two weeks in May, found that during that period, an estimated 53,000 people were infected at any time. This puts the daily infection rate at 5,600 compared with almost 8,000 in last week’s figures. Peter Benton, the director of population and public policy operations at the ONS, said: “That, we think, is a real reduction in the number of people being infected.”
Previously, the ONS had said the trend looked flat and stable, but as more data has accumulated a downward trend is now evident, the analysis said.
The COVID-19 reproductive rate – also known as the ‘R value’ – has risen to 1 in the South West, meaning the region now has the second highest rate of transmission of the virus in England, new analysis shows (ONS).
Remember the South West region extends beyond the peninsular to include Gloucester and Wiltshire and the city of Bristol.
An R value above one means each infected person passes the disease onto more than one other person, a value less than one means the infection will eventually die out. But there are other factors involved as well and Owl has reported on the significance of the K value.
Obviously we need to be very alert to what might have happened here since Boris Johnson allowed unlimited travel to beauty spots and the subsequent easing of lockdown measures.
Owl’s view is that the best “canary in the cage” to watch is the estimate of percentage of population exhibiting Covid related symptoms from Tim Spector’s Covid-19 symptom tracker app which is updated daily.
Increase in symptoms would be the first indicator of problems. Owl has been watching the following local seaside districts with contrasting characteristics. (eg South Hams with high proportion of second homes and North Devon with very high visitor to local population ratio etc.)
| 13 May
(Boris OK’s unlimited travel)
| 25 May
(Weston Hospital closed)
| 5 April
Covid-19 Symptom Tracker App estimated symptom rates
Now to the article.
R-rate has risen to 1 in South West say experts
Public Health England (PHE) has given a regional breakdown of the coronavirus transmission number, or R value, with the latest estimate showing it is around one in the North West and South West regions of England.
PHE said latest estimates, worked out in conjunction with Cambridge University’s MRC Biostatistics Unit, show it is highly likely that R is below one in each other region of England.
The brand-new analysis shows that the North West now running above that at 1.01, the highest in the country, up from 0.73 a few weeks ago when the data was last released.
The South West is listed as exactly 1, meaning it is the second highest R value in England, although the researchers believe the number of new daily infections in the region to be ‘relatively low’.
This comes as lockdown restrictions continue to be eased across England, meaning more and more people are returning to work, and some children have returned to school.
People have also recently been given governmental permission to meet with up to five others from different households, in the latest easing of the lockdown restrictions which has seen many people’s social “bubble” expand.
The South West is followed by the South East on 0.97, London on 0.95 – a huge increase from its last value of 0.4 – and the East of England on 0.94.
It measures the number in the Midlands to be at 0.9 and in the North East and Yorkshire, which previously had the highest R value, at 0.89.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, PHE medical director, said: “Our estimates show that the regional R numbers have increased although they remain below one for most of England – this is to be expected as we gradually move out of lockdown.
“It is vital that everyone continues with social distancing, practising good hand hygiene and must remain at home and order a test if they have symptoms.”
Sir Patrick Vallance, The government’s chief scientific adviser has also chimed in to the conversation, also saying that the reproductive rate of coronavirus could be as high as 1 in some parts of England.
Sir Patrick told a virtual briefing with journalists on Friday the R-number – the average number of people that will contract coronavirus from an infected person – for England was between 0.7 and 1, while it remained between 0.7 and 0.9 for the UK as a whole.
He said the prevalence of COVID-19 was on a “downward trajectory” in the UK, adding: “The prevalence of coronavirus, according to the ONS, is at 0.1%, with 53,000 people with COVID-19 in the past two weeks.”
He said the incidence rate was at 0.7% per week, which meant there were “roughly” 39,000 new coronavirus cases each week.
Sir Patrick said: “The latest R-value calculation is between 0.7 and 0.9 for the UK as a whole, it may be a little bit higher in England it may be between 0.7 and 1, and there is a bit of regional variation.”
He said there could be “some places” where the R-value is very close to 1 – which has now been confirmed by Public Health England’s new data analysis.
Detailed plans have been submitted for 317 homes in Exmouth as part of proposals which also feature land for a new primary school and commercial use.
East Devon Reporter eastdevonnews.co.uk
Five per cent of the proposed dwellings would be ‘affordable’.
Eagle Investments Ltd has already secured outline permission for up to 350 homes on the plot after its original blueprints were narrowly approved by East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Development Management Committee in July 2018.
It also secured the go-ahead for five-and-a-half acres of the site to be utilised for mixed-use employment and commercial purposes, and the provision of land for a primary school.
The firm has now submitted a reserved matters application – detailing layout, scale, appearance and landscaping – for 317 residential units, associated roads, open space, and an attenuation basin for water run-off.
“The principles set out for residential estate design are to provide a safe, attractive and convenient environment for residents,” say the plans.
Sixteen of the new homes would be ‘affordable’, with the rest being open market properties.
A mixture of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom houses are intended.
The development would be positioned around a large, green open space ‘focal point’ that would also accommodate the proposed school and a possible communal laying field.
“This open space acts as the linking element for the site’s commercial, education and residential areas,” say the plans.
A wooded play park and an orchard with fruit trees also feature in the plans.
The application states the site can be split into four ‘key elements’ – open space; education; residential; and commercial.
Education is said to be ‘central to the development and acts as a key focal point’.
“The residential has been arranged as to create a good mix and range across the site to create a sense of community and not cause segregation,” say the proposals.
“The commercial areas will be located to take advantage of public highways access and vehicular footfall along Hulham Road.
“While still part of the rest of the development to be accessed and have its facilities utilised by residents, it will be segregated by landscaping and the road network to minimize impacts of noise, smell and traffic. “
It is proposed the estate will adopt 20mph speed limits to discourage through-traffic – with restricting bends, carriageway narrowing and shared surface areas suggested to slow vehicles down.
The application adds: “As part of the upgrade to Dinan Way, two new pedestrian crossing points will be provided to give pedestrians a safe and convenient place to cross the main road.
“A great network of footways and cycleways are to be provided around the site to encourage residents to make sustainable travel choices and educe car use in the area.”
Most dwellings will have at least two private parking spaces or utilise shared parking courts.
Affordable units would be split between shared ownership and rented accommodation.
Five per cent of these would be completed in the first phase of development, according to the application.
A long-awaited £12million Dinan Way extension, being driven by Devon County Council, has planning permission, is fully designed and is waiting for government funding.
It is hoped the ‘missing link’ road will cut congestion and HGVs using Exmouth town centre by creating a new connection to the busy A376.