England and Northern Ireland announce 12 more coronavirus deaths in UK’s early count as outbreak could now be growing by up to 2% per day but Britain’s R rate is unchanged in a week
- NHS England said 11 more people had died of the disease in its hospitals between August 2 and September 2
- Scotland and Wales recorded no further victims today, while Northern Ireland reported just one fatality
- Government scientists warned the Covid-19 reproduction rate was still likely above one right across the UK
- SAGE also predicts Britain’s outbreak now growing by 2 per cent per day after being in retreat for months
A further 12 victims of the coronavirus have been confirmed in England and Northern Ireland today.
NHS England said 11 more people had died of the disease in its hospitals between August 2 and September 2, with six people dying on Wednesday.
Scotland and Wales recorded no further victims today. A full round-up of non-hospital deaths with be confirmed this afternoon by the Department of Health.
It comes as Government scientists warned the Covid-19 reproduction rate was still likely above one right across the UK.
SAGE estimates the R rate – the average number of people each virus patient infects – was still hovering between 0.9 and 1.1, having remained unchanged from last week.
The R needs to stay below one or the virus could start to grow exponentially and spiral out of control. But the UK’s low infection rate means small outbreaks can skew the estimate upwards.
SAGE also predicts that Britain’s outbreak is now growing by up to 2 per cent per day, after being in retreat for months following lockdown.
Experts think the UK’s growth rate – how the number of new cases is changing day-by-day – is between -1% and +2%.
Like the R rate, the growth rate is a tool to keep track of the virus. If it is greater than zero, and therefore positive, then the disease will grow, and if the growth rate is less than zero, then the disease will shrink.
The value is shown as a range, so the true growth rate is likely somewhere between -1% and 2%, meaning it is almost definitely positive.
And in a repeat of last week’s statistics, SAGE confirmed that every region of the UK could have an R rate at or above 1.
The Government’s scientists said it had for weeks ‘been seeing indications that these values are increasing’.
But they warned that when transmission is as low as it currently is in the UK – a 1,000 people are being diagnosed every day – the R and growth rate are more volatile. This means it can be skewed upwards by local clusters of infections.
And because of a lag in the time it takes for patients to fall ill with Covid-19 and appear in the statistics, SAGE says its data is still about three weeks behind and does not accurately reflect the current trajectory of the outbreak.
The R and growth rate are being driven up by an increase in positive cases in the UK, with more than a thousand people testing positive every day.
But scientists have shot down claims of a ‘second wave’, saying the increased infections are merely signs of improved testing.
They say the rising figures are simply the result of young, healthy people being picked up on official figures. Previously, they were being missed because tests were reserved for the sickest people.
The SAGE report published today showed that for England as a whole the R had come down slightly, from 0.9 and 1.1 last week to 0.9 and 1.0 this week.
This was helped by the fact four regions in England saw their R shrink slightly – the Midlands, North West, South East and South West.
Yesterday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that reproduction rate of north of the border was ‘probably above one’ and could be as high as 1.4 after spikes in Aberdeen and Glasgow.
Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘I said recently that the R number is of slightly less concern when overall prevalence of the virus is low, and overall prevalence of the virus is still low in Scotland right now.
‘But nevertheless this is a reminder that the virus is spreading again here, just as it is elsewhere in the UK, across Europe and indeed in the wider world.’
The devolved nations do their own R rate predictions and they are not routinely published.