Data reveals parts of the country with the highest rate of coronavirus infection

The North East of England has the highest rate of coronavirus infection in the country - double that of London - according to new data.

A report published by Public Health England (PHE) and University of Cambridge found the average rate - or R value - of Covid-19 infection in the North East and Yorkshire was 0.80.

The Government's repeated objective has been to get the rate of infection below one before any revisions of lockdown would be considered.

This R value is the average number of people an infected person can expect to pass the virus on to - the higher the number, the faster it spreads.

The rate of infection in the North East and Yorkshire is double that of London according to the data modelling. Credit: MRC Biostatistics Unit Cambridge University/PHE

The data modelling group found the lowest rate of infection across England is now in London, where the average is 0.40.

The capital was at one point the epicentre of the UK outbreak.

For the country as a whole, the group said the average rate of infection across England currently stands at 0.75.

  • The R number (rate of infection) explained:

The difference in the rate of infection is significant given the easing of coronavirus lockdown has taken place across England at the same rate.

Ministers had been asked if restrictions would be lifted on a regional basis, to which Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government was "looking at" the issue.

He added: "We are really in this together and the shape of the curve - if not the height of the curve - has been very similar across the whole country".

According to the Government's five tests for adjusting lockdown in England, a "decreasing" rate of infection "across the board" was required - and has been met given the recent easing of measures.

In Boris Johnson's speech announcing the changes, he said: "We must make sure that any measures we take do not force the reproduction rate of the disease - the R - back up over one, so that we have the kind of exponential growth we were facing a few weeks ago."

That puts the rate of infection of the North East and Yorkshire at just 0.2 lower than the level that could risk "exponential growth".

A breakdown of what that R rate looks like as infections per 100,000 people. Credit: ITV News

Sheffield City Region Mayor, Dan Jarvis, said the North of England was facing "particular challenges" with higher hospital admissions than elsewhere in the country.

Mr Jarvis told ITV News: "I think that is likely because of existing medical conditions and generations of health inequality but I also think deprivation is a factor".

The Mayor added: "Everybody needs to work together, and we've got a good working relationship with national government but they need to trust in us - to give us the data so that we can make the informed decision".

On what powers regional Mayors have to adjust lockdown measures, Mr Jarvis said they have "influence in terms of the messaging we put out".

  • Why is the rate of infection so much higher in the North of England?

One GP working in the North East, Dr Ajay Bedi, said the rate of infection is not only about the "intensity" of the spread but also "the susceptibility of the community".

"It's a very fine balance between, on the one hand, avoiding that second spike and, on the other hand, realising that the restrictions put in place have a physical and mental toll on the community," Mr Bedi said.

In response to the figures, the Department of Health (DoH) said the PHE/Cambridge Unviersity research "is one of several modelling groups who feed into Sage's estimates".

Sage is the the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies - the experts advising the government on the response to the outbreak.

In a statement, the DoH added: "Our current estimates of R are broadly consistent across the UK, although we cannot rule out it being different in different regions and nations".

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know