By Rachael Grealish
Regional COVID-19 R numbers have been published and the North West is sitting above 1, higher than all other regions in England.
The R number is the rate in which the infection reproduces – if the number is higher than one, then the number of cases increases exponentially, in theory.
In the North West – which also counts the data for Cumbria – the median R number is 1.01.
However, the exact R number for Cumbria, and it’s specific boroughs, is unknown.
Responding to the publication of regional R numbers by Public Health England and Cambridge University, Colin Cox, Cumbria’s Director of Public Health, said: “The R number is very significant and something we have to pay close attention too.
“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.”
R represents the average number of onward infections that will be generated by a single infectious individual.
R can help scientists work out if the epidemic is getting bigger (>1) or smaller (<1), but not how large it is, and therefore should not be used as the sole indicator of the current threat posed by an epidemic.
R number data is not available for Cumbria alone as it would be subject to a very wide confidence interval and therefore not provide a reliable indication of infection spread.
In the past the Prime Minister has stressed the importance of the R number being below 1 in order to ease lockdown measures – such as reopening schools and non-essential retail stores.
Even with these higher R numbers schools reopened on Monday June 1, for nursery, reception and year 6, and non-essential retail stores, such as clothing stores, can reopen from June 15.
Full data is available here.