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Coronavirus R rate has now fallen below one in England, expert claims

George Martin
·2-min read
A woman wearing a face mask walks over Westminster Bridge, central London as England enters a second coronavirus lockdown on November 5, 2020. (Photo by Hollie Adams / AFP) (Photo by HOLLIE ADAMS/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman wearing a face mask walks over Westminster Bridge. (Getty)

The coronavirus R number has fallen below one in England because of the nationwide lockdown, an expert has claimed.

The R rate, which represents the average number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, has been hovering just above 1 in most regions over the past few weeks.

But statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said on Sunday the data clearly showed that infection rates were coming down, and he predicted the R number was now below 1 across England.

He told Times Radio: "My guess is that R is currently less than 1 on average, that doesn't mean everywhere in the country.

People wearing face masks pass a Christmas window display on Oxford Street, London, where the majority of shops are closed as England continues a four week national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
Shoppers walking on Oxford Street in London. (Getty)

"[Health Secretary] Matt Hancock is very cautious. The data really does suggest it's coming down."

Spiegelhalter, statistician and chair of the Winton Centre for risk and evidence communication at the University of Cambridge, also said that if the country gets through winter with the same deaths as a bad flu season then it will have done well.

He added: "It's going to be a bad year [2021], there are going to be tens of thousands of Covid deaths over the winter and there's very little we can do about that.

Read more: Government urged to extend £500 self-isolation grant to NHS app users

"It might very well look like overall a bad flu season, particularly as there's likely to be very little flu.

"There will be people who will say 'why did we have all this fuss when it's only like a bad flu season?'.

"Do not listen to them, this is real misinformation, it's only going to be like that because of the measures that have been taken.

Watch: Return to tiered lockdown restrictions planned ahead of Christmas

"If we can get away with that, something that looks like a bad flu year, then we will have done very well."

It comes as Boris Johnson is set to detail his "winter Covid plan" on Monday, setting out the restrictions to replace the national lockdown on December 2.

More areas are expected to enter higher tiers next month so that Christmas celebrations can go ahead as normal.

Spiegelhalter said it was "perfectly reasonable" to return to a tiered approach but warned there would be costs of a national easing over Christmas would have costs.

He added: "There will be a price to pay for it, obviously, you relax restrictions and infection rates go up, you constrain and infection rates will come down as they are going down at the moment.”

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