Nationwide R rate ‘drops below 1’, as death toll rises by 521

This is the first time that the reproduction value for coronavirus has reached this level in two months, indicating that the spread of Covid-19 is beginning to slow.

It means that that, on average, every infected person will pass the virus on to one other individual.

The UK’s R rate has fallen to between 0.9 and 1, according to the latest government estimates.

Last week’s R rate was estimated to be between 1 and 1.1.

The growth rate estimate for the UK is between -2 per cent and 0 per cent, meaning the number of new infections is shrinking on a daily basis.

The new figures have been confirmed by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage). It said the new rates “are averages over very different epidemiological situations and should be regarded as a guide to the general trend rather than a description of the epidemic state.”

“Given the increasingly localised approach to managing the epidemic, particularly between nations, UK level estimates are less meaningful than previously,” Sage added.

“These estimates represent the transmission of Covid-19 over the past few weeks due to the time delay between someone being infected, having symptoms and needing healthcare.”

It comes as communities secretary Robert Jenrick suggested that some areas in England could see their tier level lowered before Christmas, amid a growing rebellion from Tory backbenchers against the country’s new tier system.

On Thursday, it was announced that 99 per cent of people in England live in areas to be placed in tiers two or three – the two strictest levels – from 2 December when lockdown lifts.

In response to concerns, Mr Jenrick told the BBC on Friday that “there is every reason to believe” that some areas in England could have restrictions eased in a review of the tier allocations in mid-December.

Earlier, Steve Baker, the prominent Brexiteer, had described the government’s policies as “truly appalling”, while the influential Graham Brady said they were “far too authoritarian”.

As many as 70 Tory MPs could vote against the new coronavirus legislation next week, according to reports.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned there would be limited scope for easing controls so quickly ahead of Christmas.

“I think that is quite an early time to be able to see what the effect has been. I think we will still be seeing the effect of the lockdown at that point in time,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I can’t imagine there will be huge changes at that point, just simply because I don’t think we will have accumulated much data by then.”

He said it is important to keep rates down – even in areas of low infection – and that ministers have had to strengthen controls as the previous tiered restrictions had failed to curb the spread of the disease.

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