The UK’s reproduction rate, or R number, has fallen below 1 for the first time since August after a national lockdown across England reduced the spread of coronavirus infections.
The R number is now between 0.9 and 1.0, which means that on average every 10 people infected with Covid-19 infects between 9 and 10 other people.
The government’s goal is to keep the UK’s R rate below 1 – this would indicate that the coronavirus epidemic is declining as not enough people are infected to keep spreading the disease. If it is higher than 1, the epidemic grows.
The last time the UK’s R rate was below 1, and therefore the size of the epidemic did not increase, was on August 14.
Government data released on Nov. 27 shows that the current growth rate in infection rates is between -2% and 0% from the previous week, meaning the number of new infections across the country every day decreases by between 0% and 2%.
In mid-August, the R rate was between 0.8 and 1.0. The growth rate was then between -4% and 1% per day.
The infection rate in London remained slightly higher than in the rest of England, reaching 1.0 to 1.1. It was the second highest in the country below the South East of England, with a value of 1.0 to 1.2.
The North West of England reported the lowest R number after facing severe restrictions several weeks prior to the lockdown, with a range between 0.7 and 0.9 as of Nov. 27.
The data comes as England prepares to end a second national lockdown on December 2, which will be replaced by a patchwork of layered lockdown rules. Most of the land goes to Tier 2 or Tier 3, which places restrictions on mixing between households and the activities of pubs, bars and restaurants.
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London is placed below level 2 meaning households are not allowed to mix indoors, except with their support bubble. The rule of six applies outdoors, and non-essential retailers, gyms and hairdressers are allowed to reopen.
Pubs and restaurants close at 11pm and last orders will be called at 10pm. Alcohol should only be served as part of a “substantial meal,” although people are only allowed to dine with others outside of their household or bubble support when sitting outside.
Spectators are allowed to attend sports venues and live performances, but in limited numbers to support social distance.
The status of all regional tier assignments will be revised on December 16, although changes are unlikely to be implemented in the run-up to a five-day relaxation of the rules over Christmas.
Scientists have warned that the government must take “urgent action” to combat the high infection rates in schools to ensure that the disease does not spread to vulnerable elderly family members during the holiday season.
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The infection rate among high school students is now higher than any other age group in the UK, said Independent SAGE, which provides independent advice to the government on the Covid-19 crisis and is chaired by former chief science adviser Sir David King.
Between 23 and 27 December, three households are allowed to bubble in all four parts of the UK and mingle freely inside. According to a Downing Street spokesperson, the government’s current opinion on the matter is: “This is a happy season. This is also the season to be very careful, especially with older family members. “
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