Covid: Government 'confident the epidemic is shrinking in England' as R value dips below 1

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt

The government has said it is "confident the epidemic is shrinking across England" after the reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission dropped to below 1.

The latest R value for England now stands at 0.7 to 0.9 with a growth rate of -5 to -2% - the first time it has dipped to 0.7 since July 24.

Releasing the figures on Friday, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said: "These estimates mean we are now confident the epidemic is shrinking across England, though it remains important that everyone continues to stay at home in order to keep the R value down, protect the NHS and help save lives."  

The R value has also dropped below 1 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scotland and Wales reported the same R value and growth rate as England and Northern Ireland reported an R value of 0.75 to 0.85.

R values by nation:

  • UK - 0.7 and 1

  • England - 0.7 to 0.9

  • Scotland - 0.7 to 0.9

  • Wales - 0.7 to 0.9

  • Northern Ireland - 0.75-0.85

Across the UK, the R value is similar, calculated at 0.7 to 1, and also at a growth rate of -5 to -2%. It is a drop on last week's value which was calculated as between 0.7 to 1.1.

An R value between 0.7 and 1.0 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 7 and 10 other people.

R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.

When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially, but when it is below 1 it means the epidemic is shrinking.

Estimates of the R value are below 1 in all NHS regions of England although the upper limit in the North East and Yorkshire and the North West is at 1.

Regional R values and growth percentages in England:

  • East of England - 0.7 to 0.9 (-6% to -3%) 

  • London - 0.6 to 0.8 (-8% to -4%) 

  • Midlands - 0.7 to 0.9 (-6% to -2%) 

  • North East and Yorkshire - 0.8 to 1.0 (-4% to 0%) 

  • North West - 0.7 to 1.0 (-4% to -1%) 

  • South East - 0.6 to 0.9 (-7% to -4%) 

  • South West - 0.7 to 0.9 (-6% to -2%) 

The estimate is based on data available up to February 1 and including hospitalisations and deaths as well as symptomatic testing and prevalence studies. 

It represents the transmission of Covid-19 over the past few weeks and has been overseen by the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).