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Coronavirus: R-number warning by Cambridge experts who estimate number of Covid-19 infections and deaths in August

University of Cambridge experts have warned that it is “very likely” that the R number is close to the critical figure of 1 in “most regions of England”.

The figure describes the average number of people that a person with Covid-19 infects.

To prevent the virus spiralling out of control, the R number must be kept below one.

Their findings came as the government put the brake on the further easing of lockdown measures, amid concern over a rise in cases in some parts of the country.

The MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge, which helps inform the government, says that the South West and South East have the “highest probabilities” that R is above one, with a 62 per cent and 57 per cent chance respectively.

The probability of R exceeding one is lowest in the East of England - which includes Cambridgeshire - and the Midlands, where it is put at less than 20 per cent.

The unit’s Paul Birrell, Joshua Blake, Edwin van Leeuwen and Daniela De Angelis also report their estimate of the number of daily Covid-19 infections, and predict the number of deaths that are likely, based on data sources including Public Health England and the NHS.

They warn that there is uncertainty surrounding both, but report: “Our current estimate of the number of infections arising each day across England is 3,000 (1,600–5,520, 95 per cent credible interval).

“We predict that the number of deaths each day is likely to be between 43 and 84 by mid-August.”

Local lockdown measures were announced on Thursday (July 30) for Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire, amid a rise in cases.

And yesterday (Friday), the government postponed the reopening of certain higher-risk indoor venues, such as bowling alleys, casinos, skating rinks and remaining close contact services, for at least two weeks.

Wedding receptions of up to 30 people were due to be allowed, but were also delayed, and a new requirement to wear masks at cinemas, places of worship, libraries and museums will come in from August 8.

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