Another 27 victims of the coronavirus were confirmed across the UK today, taking the total number of people to have died so far to 42,616.
A preliminary count from NHS England and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments suggests Britain is on track for its lowest death toll in three months.
The NHS said 26 more people had died in its hospitals between June 9 and June 20, with none of those in London.
Scotland and Northern Ireland did not record any extra fatalities today, while one more person has died in Wales.
Experts say the coronavirus is now on the back foot in Britain and statistics back up the fact, with estimates suggesting between 3,000 and 4,000 people catch Covid-19 each day.
Death counts are always lower on Sundays and Mondays because administration slows down at the weekend and reports are not processed as quickly.
The Department of Health is expected to publish a UK-wide roundup later this afternoon, which will include people who have died in care homes or their houses.
In other coronavirus news:
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK is on track to loosen lockdown rules even further on July 4, when the next monthly review is due;
- An Italian doctor has again claimed that the virus is weakening and becoming less deadly than it was in March and April. Scientists are not convinced;
- Government is set to this week reveal how it will cut down the 2metre (6’6″) social distancing rule to allow people to get closer together;
- NHSX, which worked on the failed contact tracing app, is accused of trying to block scientists who were trying to develop similar software;
- The coronavirus reproduction rate (R) in Germany soared to 1.79 yesterday amid an outbreak at a slaughterhouse near Dortmund;
- A 56-year-old man thought to be Britain’s longest-suffering Covid-19 patient, Steve White from Herefordshire, has been sent home after a staggering 92 days in hospital.
The coronavirus reproduction ‘R’ rate – the average number of people each patient infects – is still hovering around the dreaded level of one in three regions in England: London, the Midlands and the North West. Rising above one could be a sign infection numbers are growing
Britain’s crisis alert dropped from level four to level three on Friday, Boris Johnson is expected to undo most of the draconian curbs in place since March over the next fortnight
The ‘R’ number on a knife-edge: Rate of infection hovers close to one in the North West, Midlands and London – but scientists say it’s NOT time to panic because lower number of cases makes measurements more volatile
The coronavirus’s reproduction ‘R’ rate is still on the brink of spiralling out of control in three regions of England, despite the UK’s alert level being downgraded and plans to end lockdown within a fortnight being put into motion.
SAGE scientists estimate the R – the average number of people a Covid-19 patient infects – is hovering close to the dreaded number of one in London, the North West and the Midlands, despite being lower for the UK as a whole.
But scientists told MailOnline that using the R to assess the UK’s crisis is becoming less useful because of falling prevalence of the disease in the community.
The R is thought to be between 0.8 and 1.0 in the Midlands, the highest of any region in Britain, and slightly lower in London and the North West, where estimates put it in the range of 0.7 and 1.0.
Covid-19’s reproduction rate must stay below one or cases will start to grow exponentially again and the UK could be faced with a second wave of the virus.
For example, an R rate of just 1.2 would mean every 10 people who became infected would pass the virus onto 12 more people. Those 12 would, in turn, infect 14 people who would then pass the disease on to more than 17, and so on.
Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, said the fewer infected patients there are, the greater the margin for error when estimating the R value, especially when looking at specific areas of the UK.
For example, if there are only 10 cases and one of them infects three people, it would push the R rate up significantly and skew the average.
Professor Heneghan told MailOnline: ‘There is a problem with using the R rate now, as infection comes down to very low levels. The R will fluctuate, so you would expect the R to become a less accurate measurement of the epidemic. No-one will get a handle on the R rate when 80% people are asymptomatic and the virus is circulating at such low levels.
‘What really matters is looking at data such as hospital admissions, 999 calls, GP consultation rates and NHS 111 interactions. And when we look at these, all of them are reassuringly coming down.’
It comes after Britain’s ‘Covid-alert’ level was downgraded from level four to level three after scientists confirmed that the epidemic is shrinking by 4 per cent every day.
But scientists told MailOnline today that using the R to assess the UK’s crisis is becoming less useful because of falling prevalence of the disease in the community. It must now be used alongside data such as hospital admissions and deaths to calculate the growth of the crisis
Government scientists published growth rate data for the first time on Friday. Until now, SAGE had only provided details on the R rate – the average number of people an infected person is likely to pass the virus on to.
For the UK as a whole, the current growth rate is minus 4 per cent to minus 2 per cent and the estimate of the reproduction number, referred to as R, remains at 0.7 to 0.9.
WHAT IS THE GROWTH RATE AND R RATE ACROSS ENGLAND?
-4% to -1%
-4% to -2%
-6% to -1%
-5% to +1%
-4% to 0%
-5% to -1%
-4% to 0%
-5% to -1%
-6% to 0%
The growth rate reflects how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, and, as the number of infections decreases, is another way of keeping track of the virus.
If the growth rate 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.
It is an approximation of the change in the number of infections each day, and the size of the growth rate indicates the speed of change.
It takes into account various data sources, including government-run Covid-19 surveillance testing schemes. For example, a growth rate of 5 per cent is faster than a growth rate of 1 per cent, while a disease with a growth rate of minus 4 per cent will be shrinking faster than a disease with growth rate of minus 1 per cent.
R estimates – which are at least three weeks behind – do not indicate how quickly an epidemic is changing and different diseases with the same R can result in epidemics that grow at very different speeds.
Growth rates provide different information from R estimates, by suggesting the size and speed of change, whereas the R value only gives data on the direction of change.
To calculate R, information on the time it takes for one set of people in an infected group to infect a new set of people in the next group is needed.
However, the growth rate is estimated using a range of data similar to R, but it does not depend on the ‘generation time’ and so requires fewer assumptions to estimate.
Neither measure – R or growth rate – is better than the other but each provides information that is useful in monitoring the spread of a disease. Experts say each should be considered alongside other measures of the spread of disease.