Coronavirus 'R rate' drops below 1 as infections fall

Suffolk is getting funding to help tackle health inequalities deemed to have been widened by coronav

The 'R rate' has fallen in recent weeks - but cases are still far too high, health and community leaders have warned - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The reproduction - or 'R rate' - for coronavirus has dropped below 1 in East Anglia, in a sign the level of infections is slowing.

However, health and community leaders have in recent days warned people that cases are "still far too high" in many areas and that there is a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted.

The R number is the number of others that one infected person will pass the disease onto.

If it is below 1, it means the spread of the illness is slowing - but any value above 1 is a cause for concern, because those who are infected are passing it on to more people, who in turn are also infecting others.

It is not possible to be precise about the figure, because it changes depending on people's behaviour or because the level of immunity they have alters.

Latest R rate statistics released on Friday show the figure for the East of England is currently 0.7 to 0.9 - slightly below the England average of 0.7 to 1.0.

Earlier this month, the R rate was between 1.0 and 1.3 - which meant that every 10 people infected were passing it on to between 10 and 13 other people.

Coronavirus cases have been falling across all of Suffolk, with Ipswich recording a rate of 352 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days up until January 25.

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That is a sizeable drop from the 463.8 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days up until January 18.

However, health leaders like Stuart Keeble, Suffolk's director of public health, have warned that case levels are still "very high" - and much higher even than when Suffolk was under strict Tier 4 level rules.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) - which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals - said said there had been a "slight" decrease in Covid admissions.

However, coronavirus-related deaths at Suffolk's hospitals are their highest levels since the pandemic began.

At ESNEFT alone, 130 people died between January 18 and January 25.

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said: “The good news is that Covid-19 cases in Ipswich are now falling but the rates are still far too high and Ipswich Hospital remains under huge pressure.

"We must continue to stick with the rules and stay at home at all times except for the small number of allowed reasons.

"We must continue to regularly wash our hands, wear a face covering and keep two metres apart from other people.

"This is the fastest way we can help beat this horrible virus."

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