R-rate has risen to 1 in South West say experts

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


North Devon           0.3%          0.7%           0.2%                        
South Hams           0.6%          0.5%           0.2%
Torbay           0.5%          0.3%           0.4%
East Devon          0.5%          0.7%          0.3%


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.

The latest regional R analysis by Public Health England

The latest regional R analysis by Public Health England (Image: Public Health England and Cambridge University)

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.

One thought on “R-rate has risen to 1 in South West say experts

  1. Pingback: The South West’s rising R number – Devon’s director of public health says it ‘should be treated with caution’ « SEATON & COLYTON matters

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