LONDON (Reuters) - UK scientists are no longer confident that the reproduction number of the coronavirus in England is below 1, the government said on Friday, even as latest estimates suggested it was, due to time lags in the data.
The reproduction, or R, number, a closely watched metric of whether an epidemic is growing, was published shortly before Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed the next step in the easing of lockdown, citing rising infection rates.
The number of infections in the community is on the rise for the first time since May, a survey by Britain’s Office for National Statistics showed on Friday.
“Models that use COVID-19 testing data that have less of a time delay have recently suggested higher values for R in England,” the Government Office for Science said in a statement which said the R value for England was 0.8-1.0.
“For this reason, SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) does not have confidence that R is currently below 1 in England.”
For the UK as a whole, the R rate rose to 0.8-0.9, from the 0.7-0.9 figure published last week.
In the North West, the R rate was 0.8-1.1. On Thursday night, Britain imposed tougher lockdowns across swathes of northern England after a rise in the rate of coronavirus transmissions.
Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison/Guy Faulconbridge