The UK’s R-rate for coronavirus infection has fallen to below 1 for the first time since August – three weeks into England’s second national lockdown.
Government scientists have announced the R-number for the UK has dropped to between 0.9 and 1 meaning infections should now decrease. The number of new cases reported today – 16,022 – is 25% fewer than last week, and the number of patients admitted for healthcare is also down.
However, the number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test has increased by almost 10%, with a further 521 recorded taking the total to 57,551. The total number of deaths recorded with Covid-19 on the death certificate is now 66,713 – an increase of 2,838 in the last seven days.
Getting the R-number below one was the main aim of the second lockdown in England, but while the number has fallen for the UK as a whole, it remains above 1 in certain areas of the country. The R-rate – also called the reproduction number or R-value for coronavirus –is calculated by the government’s scientific advisers and is an estimate of the average number of people an infected person passes the disease onto.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all introduced restrictions to try and curb the spread of the virus while England controversially moves back into a new tighter tier system from Thursday (December 3).
PM faces fury from backbenches
More than 55 million people – 99% of England’s population – will live under tier 2 or tier 3 restrictions when the second lockdown ends and the prime minister is facing increasing fury from his backbenchers as the end of lockdown looms.
Boris Johnson may end up needing the support of Labour’s MPs when the restrictions are voted on next week in the Commons. Today he defended the plan’s “simplicity and clarity” arguing it is what the country needs.
Responding to the critics of the “one-size-fits-all” tier system which does not consistently reflect local levels of infection, Johnson said the government “cannot divide the country up into loads and loads of very complicated sub-divisions”.
“Some simplicity and clarity” is needed said the PM, adding the “tough tiering” for England was still “more relaxed by a long way than the current lockdown measures”.
The tiers will “drive the disease down” said Johnson, “until a vaccine comes on stream, which we hope will be over the next weeks and months”.
He added there is a planned “review point” on December 16 when the government will discuss the “prospect of areas being able to move down the tier scale”.
Restrictions are ‘truly appalling’ says CRG deputy chair
Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative backbench MPs, said the government’s evidence to justify the tier system is not “compelling” and has called for analysis of the impact the restrictions are having on the economy and well being of the country.
Harper said on “too many occasions ministers have made arguments and they’ve not stacked up.”
Steve Baker – the prominent Brexiter and CRG deputy-chair – has described the restrictions as “truly appalling” and echoed Harper’s comments to claim the modelling used by government scientists has been “wrong time and time again”.