South west ‘R’ rate is most uncertain in England 

It could be country’s highest or lowest

“Now what we want is facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.” That’s Mr Grandrind, from Charles Dickens’ Hard Times in 1854. Jump through the best part of two centuries and the facts of coronavirus in the south west are somewhat dubious.

The rate of infection – the ‘R’ rate in the Uk could be the highest in England, at 1.6, or it could be the lowest at 0.9. These are the facts, known as statistics.

If the R rate is above 1, each person infects more than one other person and the disease spreads quickly. In every part of England except the south west (a large region that includes Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, as well as Devon), the range is one or above. Only here could it be 0.9.The south west range of 0.9 to 1.6 is the broadest of anywhere. In short, it’s likely to be one or more. That spells trouble. The range is broad when the number of cases of deaths falls to low levels or there is a high degree of variability in transmission across the region. For example, the rate could be different in rural Devon than it is in urban Bristol, Swindon or Gloucester.

Across England, the daily rate of infection is now as high as it was in April. Nationally the R rate is now between 1.1 and 1.4, with the number of cases rising by two to seven per cent every day.

The late summer sunshine has encouraged people out to Devon’s beaches, with many groups numbering more than six. Police and community support officers have been giving larger groups advice; which many groups have listened to politely before deciding it’s not advice they wish to follow. Some people suggest government messages have been rather inconsistent; chivvying people to eat out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and go back to offices so that sandwich shops, bars and restaurants have passing trade, whilst at the same time telling people to stay away from one another.

[Owl’s advice is to keep an eye on Tim Spector’s symptom tracking app. (the only real-time data we have). This still shows relatively low levels of prevalence across the South West but illustrates what is happening nationally – see graph below]