Covid: Rising R number and coronavirus cases cast doubts over June 21 unlocking in England

Cases numbers are on the rise. Credit: PA

In a further blow to plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions from June 21, it was confirmed on Friday that the R value - rate of infection - in England is now between 1.2 and 1.4, having risen from the previous week when it was between 1 and 1.2.

The north west has the highest rate of infection, ranging from 1.3 to 1.5.

A rate between 1.2 and 1.4 means that for every 10 people infected with Covid, they will pass it on to between 12 and 14 others. It means that coronavirus cases are increasing.

With the R-rate increasing, so too are cases of Covid-19 across England.

Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson's "road map" all coronavirus restrictions could end in England from June 21 so long as conditions allow, however, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also show a troubling trend.

In England, around one in 560 people in private households had Covid-19 in the week to June 5, rising from one in 640 in the previous week, according to the ONS.

This is the highest level since the week to April 10.

One of the major factors impacting the cases numbers in England is the rise in the Delta variant, first found in India.

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More than 90% of new Covid-19 cases are now the Delta variant, which continues to show a significantly higher rate of growth compared to the Alpha (or Kent) variant, Public Health England said.

The Delta variant is also thought to be up to 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant.

The percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 is estimated to have increased in north-west England, the West Midlands, London and south-east England.

There are also early signs of a decrease in eastern England while the trend is uncertain for other regions, the ONS said.

Outside of England, the trend is somewhat more uncertain.

In Wales, around one in 1,300 people are estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to June 5 – down slightly from one in 1,050 in the previous week, but higher than one in 3,850 two weeks earlier.

In Northern Ireland, the latest estimate is one in 700 people, up slightly from one in 800 in the previous week, while for Scotland the estimate is one in 540, up from one in 680.

Sarah Crofts, Head of Analytical Outputs for the Covid-19 Infection Survey, said: “Infections are still low compared to what we saw in January, when they were around 12 times the level we are seeing now. However, they have recently increased and are now similar to levels we last saw in April.“In England it is likely the increase is being driven by the new ‘Delta’ variant, now the most common variant in England, though the trend is less certain in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.“Today’s data underlines the importance of tracking infection rates as we move into the summer months.”