Great Britain

SAGE advisers fear letting shops reopen on June 15 risks second lockdown by the end of summer

SAGE advisers fear letting shops reopen on June 15 could risk a second lockdown by the end of summer, it has been reported.

They fear that easing more restrictions could push the crucial coronavirus R rate above 1.

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The latest figures from yesterday show the crucial coronavirus R rate has crept back up above 1 in some parts of England.

Research by Public Health England and Cambridge University suggests the reproduction rate is 1.01 in the North West and 1.0 in the South West.

It also warned that there is some evidence the value has risen in all regions, saying it was probably due to increasing mobility and mixing between households in public and work settings.

The national figure calculated by SAGE is between 0.7 and 0.9 - but could be above 1 in some places.

Professor Sheila Bird, former Programme Leader, MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, who was not involved in this work, said: "The findings are the opposite of reassuring.

“In no region of England is the effective reproduction number assuredly below 1 with regions’ median estimates ranging from 0.89 to 1.01.

"No wonder members of SAGE are worried."

'SAGE ARE WORRIED'

Paul Birrell, one of the report's lead authors said the model does come with high levels of uncertainty but added: "All regions are straddling 1."

He added: "There has been a significant increase in the number of people moving around."

Colin Cox, Cumbria's director of public health, said: "The R number is very significant and something we have to pay close attention to.

"For the North West, the median R number is marginally above 1, showing the epidemic could potentially still be growing.

"This really underlines the importance of people maintaining social distancing and continuing to follow Government guidance as lockdown restrictions begin to ease.

"We will be monitoring the R number very carefully and a tightening of lockdown restrictions could be possible if the R number increases.

"This is something we all want to avoid, so we cannot be complacent."

The next easing of lockdown is only a few weeks away as scientists fear that because the impact is not detectable until at least next week there would be a second peak that forces a reintroduction of lockdown.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government's chief scientific adviser, confirmed yesterday that the R rate for England was between 0.7 and 1 but remained between 0.7 and 0.9 for the UK as a whole.

The R-number is the average number of people that will contract coronavirus from an infected person.

If R is one or higher, the virus will spread exponentially through the population.

An R number of less than one indicates the virus is in decline.

The R rate is so important given the implications it could have for lockdown measures. If it rises above one - a sign the epidemic is growing - tougher restrictions may be reintroduced.

There is a time lag in the calculations, with the latest R value relating to what was happening two to three weeks ago.

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