East of England's R rate rises to highest in country

Ipswich town centre was like a ghost town on November 15, during the second weekend of lockdown 2. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

The East of England's R rate is the now the highest in the country - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The East of England's coronavirus R rate has grown to become the highest in the country, government data has revealed.

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Latest data has shown that the region's rate is now between 1.2 and 1.4 - higher than the national average for England at 1.1 and 1.3.

The figures also revealed the growth rate has risen, meaning Covid-19 infections are increasing between 4% and 6% every day.

An R number between 1.2 and 1.4 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will go on spread the virus to between 12 and 14 others.

All districts in Suffolk have experienced a rise in coronavirus cases over the last few weeks, with Ipswich's infection rate the highest in the county at 222.8 cases per 100,000 people in the week up to December 15.

The government is due to publish an updated estimate of the R rate on Wednesday, after the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) reviews the latest infection data.

SAGE scientists use data such as hospital admissions, the number of people dying with Covid-19 and the amount of positive tests to calculate an estimate of the R rate.

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Suffolk remained in Tier 2 measures after the government's first review of the system was announced on Thursday.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Stuart Keeble, Suffolk's director of public health, pleaded for families to be responsible - Credit: Archant

The news came after health chiefs from across Suffolk penned an open letter pleading with the community to be responsible over Christmas, with coronavirus infections in the county tripling since October.

The letter, written by executives at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, West Suffolk Hospital, the county's NHS clinical commissioning groups, GP federation and others, said: "Sadly, we no longer have the capacity to lower our guard or lessen our resolve over the festive period.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of ESNEFT, said preparations for the winter began in March Picture: SARA

Nick Hulme, chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, signed the open letter - Credit: Archant

"We must continue to live with caution and follow guidance fully. We therefore ask that you think carefully about your Christmas plans.

"We know that one of the best ways to fight this virus is to limit contact with other people, so we ask that you choose your Christmas bubble wisely and stick with that bubble.

Suffolk coronavirus cases: Dr Stephen Dunn, chief executive of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, sa

Suffolk coronavirus cases: Dr Stephen Dunn, chief executive of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said people should continue to use hospital services Picture: WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST - Credit: Archant

"We also ask that you think twice before seeing your elderly or vulnerable relatives. This is on top of those things we already do well, such as washing hands, wearing a mask and social distancing."