Fears ‘it wouldn’t take much’ for R number to rise above 1
PUBLISHED: 05:30 08 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:42 08 June 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is still “very much with us”, an MP and doctor has warned as new figures show the eastern region’s ‘R’ infection rate has risen closer to 1.
The latest research from the University of Cambridge and Public Health England put the ‘R’ rate in the east at 0.94. The reproduction rate was previously between 0.5 and 0.8 – but the region still has the third lowest ‘R’ number in the country.
Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter, who is working on the frontline during the crisis, said it would not take much for the reproduction rate to rise above one, which could spark a second wave of infections.
“The R rate is the best approximation of how many people are infected by one person who is known to have coronavirus,” said Dr Poulter.
“If the R rate is less than one, it means the virus is effectively dying out because for every one person who has the virus, less than one person is infected.
“But if the R rate is over one, that means for every person affected more than one person is infected with the virus, which means it will potentially spread and grow in a community. “It is not an exact science, it’s an approximation based upon the best evidence available.
“One thing that in recent weeks may have increased the R number in the east of England and in other areas outside of London particularly is the number of infections we know we’ve had in care homes.”
Dr Poulter, who represents Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said: “While the headline number is important, you’ve also got to look at how it is playing out in the general population – and are there certain groups, for example care homes, or perhaps wards in a mental health hospital, that may inflate the overall number.”
He added that he believes there is a “particular challenge with infection in care homes”.
However, reminding people to stay alert, he said: “It’s something that helps to focus the mind that the virus is still very much here and with us and it wouldn’t take much for the R number to tip considerably over one.
“If that were to be the case, we’d be looking at a second wave of coronavirus.”
Dr Poulter also said that because of the rapid spread of the virus, lockdown measures have had to be implemented on a “trial and error basis”.
He added: “The fact measures are being lifted in a slow manner so we can see how some of those are affecting the R number is probably the most sensible way forward.
“We need to, as much as we can, return people’s lives to a place where they can go about their daily business in a way that is less restrictive, and restart the economy. It’s a very delicate balancing act.”
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