The infection ‘R’ rate for coronavirus has risen above 1 in London, Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed, as the virus continues to infect increasing numbers of people across the UK and around the world.

In its latest update on the rate at which new people become infected with the potentially deadly virus, PHE said that the R rate for London was somewhere between 1.2 and 1.5.

Any R rate above 1 means that new people who become infected with the virus will pass it onto increasing numbers of other people, creating a snowballing effect where the virus’s presence in the general population becomes greater and greater.

As a spokesperson for PHE clarified:

“An R number between 1.2 and 1.5 means that on average every 10 people infected will infect between 12 and 15 other people.”

London’s rate of 1.2-1.5 mirrored that of the UK as a whole, plus other regions currently experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases like Midlands, the North West, plus the North East and Yorkshire.

An alternative way to measure how fast the virus is spreading is the “growth rate”, which PHE also updated.

The state body said that the Covid-19 growth rate for London was +4 to +8 per cent.

“A growth rate between +4 per cent and +8 per cent means the number of new infections is growing by 4 per cent to 8 per cent every day,” PHE clarified.

“The UK estimates of R and growth rate are averages over very different epidemiological situations and should be regarded as a guide to the general trend rather than a description of the epidemic state,” a spokesperson added.

“When the numbers of cases or deaths fall to low levels and/or there is a high degree of variability in transmission across a region, then care should be taken when interpreting estimates of R and the growth rate. For example, a significant amount of variability across a region due to a local outbreak may mean that a single average value does not accurately reflect the way infections are changing throughout that region.

“It is SAGE’s expert view, however, that this week’s estimates are reliable, and that there is widespread growth of the epidemic across the country.”