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Coronavirus epidemic grows in U.K. as reproduction number rises above 1.0

During the summer, the R number fell below 1.0, meaning the epidemic was getting smaller. An outbreak can grow when the figure is above that.
Image: An outdoor seating area in London
An outdoor seating area in London on Friday. Toby Melville / Reuters

LONDON — The reproduction or "R" number of coronavirus transmission across the U.K. have risen above 1.0 for the first time since early March, a government scientific advisory body revealed Friday. An outbreak can grow when the figure is above that.

The estimate for R, which represents the average number of people each COVID-19 positive person goes on to infect, is currently between 1.0 and 1.2., the data released by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) showed.

During the summer, the R number fell below 1.0, meaning the epidemic was getting smaller.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the pandemic is "not over, and everyone has a role to play to keep the virus at bay."

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Earlier this week, the government tightened restrictions in England on social gatherings as a result of a recent spike in new confirmed cases. Gatherings will be limited to six people from Monday both indoors and outdoors.

The new rules will be policed more stringently, including via the imposition of fines. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also announced similar restrictions on gatherings.

The "R rate" data came as a new study suggested that coronavirus cases in England had doubled every seven to eight days at the beginning of September.

The Real-Time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT-1) study found that out of 152,909 swab results, 136 were positive, and prevalence doubled every 7.7 days.

It estimated that between August 22 and September 7, 13 people per 10,000 were infected. This compared with four people per 10,000 between July 24 and August 11.

The findings came as Britain’s National Health Service announced a further nine people who tested positive for the virus died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,648.

Tough new COVID-19 restrictions were placed on a number of cities across the U.K. on Friday.

After infections rocketed in Birmingham, the city’s 1.14 million residents have been banned from mixing with other households

Liverpool has also been added to the government's coronavirus watchlist of areas of concern after a four-fold rise in confirmed cases in the last fortnight, the city's public health officials said.

A total of 303 people have been diagnosed with the virus in the last seven days, double the number recorded in the previous week and four times that of the week before, the officials said.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.