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Coronavirus: UK epidemic growing as R number exceeds 1

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Coronavirus infections have increased in recent weeks in the UK, according to new estimates.

The latest government R number is between 1

and 1.2, which means the epidemic is growing.

And a study of thousands of people in England found cases that double every seven to eight days, with a sharp increase in the north and among young people.

From Monday, new laws will be introduced on how many people can socialize indoors and outdoors.

The “rule of six” will prohibit gatherings of more than six people indoors in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It has also been announced that Birmingham will become the last area to introduce new restrictions after an increase in cases.

But three large separate studies have indicated a widespread resurgence of the coronavirus throughout the population.

And the R (reproduction) number, which describes how many other infected people it transmits the virus to, has also increased.

If it is greater than one, as now, the infected grow.

But the virus is still at much lower levels across the UK than the pandemic peak in April.

The UK is entering a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the lockdown, we have decided how to react to falling cases. But now the R number has surpassed the crucial level of 1 for the first time since March and is supported by reams of data showing that cases are rising again.

This isn’t limited to just hot spots like Bolton – a government adviser told me the increase was spread across the country.

They said today was a “wake-up call” for the nation. There are already some signs that the number of people admitted to hospital is starting to increase.

But this is not a repeat of the block build-up. The cases are at a much lower level and are growing more slowly.

Before the blockade, the R number was around three and cases doubled every three or four days. It is now about half.

The coronavirus will pose a major challenge until we have a vaccine.

So the decisive question as we head into a potentially difficult winter is how to balance controlling the virus with moving on with our lives.

The REACT study of over 150,000 volunteers in England, one of three new community-wide data sources, found “an acceleration of transmission” in late August and early September.

He said infection levels were rising across England, but particularly in the north east, north west and Yorkshire.

And there have been increases in positive cases in all age groups up to the age of 65, with higher growth rates between 18-24.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the study at Imperial College London, said the data clearly show “a worrying trend in coronavirus infections”, where cases are growing rapidly across England and “are no longer concentrated. in key workers “.

He said there was evidence of “an epidemic in the community” that was not the result of multiple people being tested.

The second set of data, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says there was no increase in cases in Wales during the first week of September. 1,200 people are estimated to have had the coronavirus in the week between August 30 and September 5.

But in England, the equivalent estimate was 39,700 – 11,000 more than the previous week.

The ONS bases its figures on thousands of swab tests done in families, regardless of whether people have symptoms or not.

Katherine Kent, from the ONS infection survey, said the results suggest “an increase in Covid-19 infections in England in recent weeks, with higher infection rates between 17-34 years.”

Nicola Sturgeon warned that the average number of cases in Scotland has “more than tripled every three weeks”.

And the third set of data, from the Covid symptoms app, which tracks the health of nearly four million people in the UK, also suggests a rise in new cases since late August – the first time since mid-June. a significant increase in numbers.

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