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Coronavirus R rate could be as high as 1.2, symptom app predicts

THE CORONAVIRUS R rate could be “as high as 1.2” according to data from the Covid Symptom Tracker app.

It comes as Boris Johnson this afternoon banned gatherings of more than six people in a fresh crackdown on Covid-19 that could last six months.

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In his first press conference since July, the Prime Minister announced moves to curb a sudden spike in infections, thought to be fuelled by young people not following the rules.

Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty warned: “The numbers are going up, really much more rapidly over the last few days.

“It is important to think about this in terms of ages, where this is happening.

“There is some very good news in this, that in older people and younger children rates remain really quite flat.

“But in some age groups, rates are going up really quite sharply.”

Prof Whitty pinpointed the age groups 20-29 and 30-39 as being particular cause for concern.

He added that at the same time, test positivity rates – the number of positive tests compared to the proportion of swabs done – are “following exactly the same pattern”.

“This makes it clear it is not just because of increased testing, it is a real phenomenon that we are seeing the number of cases going up,” he added.

The King’s College Zoe app suggests that there are currently 3,164 daily new cases of the virus on average over the two weeks up to 4 September 2020 and that the R rate sits at around 1.2.

This figure excludes care homes.

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London said local and regional restrictions could quell the spread of the virus before it gets out of control.

He said: “We are now seeing a significant increase in cases in the UK with over 3,000 daily new symptomatic cases, and an estimated R value of 1.2.

“This uptick in numbers is concerning and if we don’t get the R value down in the coming weeks, we could be looking at another national lock down, which none of us want.

“Before taking that step, we need to use local and regional restrictions to slow the spread and get the numbers back down.”

He added that the app’s data highlights that cases are “rising disproportionately” in the North of England, Scotland and Wales in comparison to the South.

Data from the app also revealed that there are currently 30,948 people with symptomatic Covid in the UK.

Just yesterday, further restrictions were imposed in places like Bolton, which has witnessed a surge in cases in the last week.

Health secretary Matt Hancock this week stressed the government had the virus under control.

On Sunday it was reported that cases of the virus in the UK had reached 2,988 – the highest level since May.

While cases are higher than they have been, experts had suggested it is because we are testing more people than we did at the height of the crisis.

At the start of lockdown a limited amount of tests meant that more than 40 per cent came back positive.

This has now plummeted to just 2.3 per cent across the community and 0.5 per cent in hospitals, Public Health England data revealed.

This equates to around one in 50 people testing positive in test centres.

It also means that just one in 200 hospital patients who get swabbed actually have the virus. 

When the R value is below 1, it means transmission is low and the epidemic is shrinking – but greater than that number suggests it’s growing.

The values are shown as a range, which means the true R rate most likely lies somewhere between the upper and lower estimates.

Experts warn that as Covid cases are much lower than they were at the peak of the pandemic, the R rate is more sensitive to even small outbreaks.

They also caution that there is a delay in the estimates as scientists use a range of data sources, which can take time to collate.

Data published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which advises the government, last week revealed that the R rate for the UK as a whole is somewhere between 0.9-1.1.

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