Britain has recorded 128 more coronavirus deaths in the lowest Saturday rise since lockdown, taking the total number of victims in the UK to 42,589.

The newly-released figure marks the smallest jump since Saturday March 21, two days before lockdown, when 56 people died from the virus, and is a significant drop from the record high of 1,115 deaths on Saturday April 18. 

Across the past three weeks, there were 181 coronavirus deaths announced last Saturday, 204 the week before that and 215 on Saturday May 30. 

In Britain, more than 303,000 people have tested positive after 1,295 Britons were diagnosed in the last day – but millions of cases have gone unreported because of a lack of widespread testing early in the crisis. 

The reproduction rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects – is still between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK, meaning the virus is firmly in retreat. Separate data released for the first time also claimed the UK’s current growth rate – how the number of new daily cases is changing day-by-day – could be as low as minus 4 per cent. If the rate becomes greater than zero, the disease could once again spiral out of control

WHAT IS THE R NUMBER? AND HOW IS IT CALCULATED? 

WHAT IS R0?

Every infectious disease is given a reproduction number, which is known as R0 – pronounced ‘R nought’.

It is a value that represents how many people one sick person will, on average, infect.

WHAT IS THE R0 FOR COVID-19?

The R0 value for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was estimated by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team to be 2.4 in the UK before lockdown started.

But some experts analysing outbreaks across the world have estimated it could be closer to the 6.6 mark.

Estimates of the R0 vary because the true size of the pandemic remains a mystery, and how fast the virus spreads depends on the environment.

It will spread faster in a densely-populated city where people travel on the subway than it will in a rural community where people drive everywhere.

HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO OTHER VIRUSES?

It is thought to be at least three times more contagious than the coronavirus that causes MERS (0.3 – 0.8).

Measles is one of the most contagious infectious diseases, and has an R0 value of 12 to 18 if left uncontrolled. Widespread vaccination keeps it suppressed in most developed countries.

Chickenpox’s R0 is estimated to be between 10 and 12, while seasonal flu has a value of around 1.5.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A LOW R0?

The higher the R0 value, the harder it is for health officials control the spread of the disease.

A number lower than one means the outbreak will run out of steam and be forced to an end. This is because the infectious disease will quickly run out of new victims to strike. 

HOW IS IT CALCULATED?

Experts use multiple sources to get this information, including NHS hospital admissions, death figures and behavioural contact surveys which ask people how much contact they are having with others.

Using mathematical modelling, scientists are then able to calculate the virus’ spread.

But a lag in the time it takes for coronavirus patients to fall unwell and die mean R predictions are always roughly three weeks behind.  

The latest estimates from SAGE scientists suggest the R – the average number of people a Covid-19 patient infects – is near the dreaded number of one in London, the North West and the Midlands but remains lower across the rest of the country.

But according to scientists, the R is becoming less useful to measure the situation because it is now less prevalent in the community as opposed to care homes and hospitals.

The Midllands is thought to have the highest R rate in the country of between 0.8 and 1.0 in the Midlands, while it is slightly lower in London and the North West, where estimates put it in the range of 0.7 and 1.0. 

In order to prevent another growth of cases, the Covid-19 reproduction rate must stay below one as the UK aims to avoid a second wave of the virus.  

For example, an R rate of just 1.2 would mean every 10 people who became infected would pass the virus onto 12 more people. Those 12 would, in turn, infect 14 people who would then pass the disease on to more than 17, and so on. 

Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, said the fewer infected patients there are, the greater the margin for error when estimating the R value, especially when looking at specific areas of the UK. 

For example, if there are only 10 cases and one of them infects three people, it would push the R rate up significantly and skew the average.      

Professor Heneghan told MailOnline: ‘There is a problem with using the R rate now, as infection comes down to very low levels. The R will fluctuate, so you would expect the R to become a less accurate measurement of the epidemic. No-one will get a handle on the R rate when 80% people are asymptomatic and the virus is circulating at such low levels. 

‘What really matters is looking at data such as hospital admissions, 999 calls, GP consultation rates and NHS 111 interactions. And when we look at these, all of them are reassuringly coming down.’    

It comes after Britain’s ‘Covid-alert’ level was downgraded from level four to level three after scientists confirmed that the epidemic is shrinking by 4 per cent every day.

Government scientists published growth rate data for the first time on Friday. Until now, SAGE had only provided details on the R rate – the average number of people an infected person is likely to pass the virus on to.

For the UK as a whole, the current growth rate is minus 4 per cent to minus 2 per cent and the estimate of the reproduction number, referred to as R, remains at 0.7 to 0.9.

The growth rate reflects how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, and, as the number of infections decreases, is another way of keeping track of the virus.

If the growth rate is greater than zero, and therefore positive, then the disease will grow, and if the growth rate is less than zero, then the disease will shrink.

It is an approximation of the change in the number of infections each day, and the size of the growth rate indicates the speed of change. 

Britain’s ‘Covid-alert’ level was downgraded from level four to level three following a dramatic reduction in new infections, hospital admissions and deaths

WHAT IS THE GROWTH RATE AND R RATE ACROSS ENGLAND? 

AREA

ENGLAND 

WALES

SCOTLAND

N IRELAND

UK

EAST 

LONDON

MIDLANDS

NORTH EAST 

NORTH WEST

SOUTH EAST

SOUTH WEST 

R RATE 

0.7-0.9

0.7-01.0

0.6-0.8 

0.5-0.9 

0.7-0.9 

0.7-0.9

0.7-1.0

0.8-1.0

0.7-0.9

0.7-1.0

0.7-0.9

0.6-0.9 

GROWTH RATE

-4% to -1%

NOT GIVEN 

NOT GIVEN

NOT GIVEN 

-4% to -2% 

-6% to -1%

-5% to +1%

-4% to 0%

-5% to -1%

-4% to 0%

-5% to -1%

-6% to 0% 

It takes into account various data sources, including government-run Covid-19 surveillance testing schemes. For example, a growth rate of 5 per cent is faster than a growth rate of 1 per cent, while a disease with a growth rate of minus 4 per cent will be shrinking faster than a disease with growth rate of minus 1 per cent. 

R estimates – which are at least three weeks behind – do not indicate how quickly an epidemic is changing and different diseases with the same R can result in epidemics that grow at very different speeds. 

Growth rates provide different information from R estimates, by suggesting the size and speed of change, whereas the R value only gives data on the direction of change.

To calculate R, information on the time it takes for one set of people in an infected group to infect a new set of people in the next group is needed.

However, the growth rate is estimated using a range of data similar to R, but it does not depend on the ‘generation time’ and so requires fewer assumptions to estimate.

Neither measure – R or growth rate – is better than the other but each provides information that is useful in monitoring the spread of a disease. Experts say each should be considered alongside other measures of the spread of disease.

Boris Johnson is expected to unveil a raft of new measures over the next fortnight to end the UK’s lockdown on the back of the low R levels and shrinking infections, hospital admissions and deaths.

The Government’s scientific advisers have green-lit plans to cut the two-metre social distancing rule in half so that pubs, restaurants and hotels can reopen early next month following a dramatic lowering of the coronavirus alert level.

The latest numbers come as Government scientists look set to green-light Boris Johnson’s plan to cut the two-metre social distancing rule in half so that pubs, restaurants and hotels can reopen early next month following a dramatic lowering of the coronavirus alert level.

A review into the controversial guidance is being reviewed by SAGE scientists and the results are expected next week. Boris has faced pressure from pub, hotel and restaurant chains and even his own backbench MPs about the two-metre rule, which severely limits the amount of customers businesses can host at one time.

Britain’s two-metre recommendation is much more extreme than in most countries. The US, Australia, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have implemented a 1.5 metre rule, while France, Denmark, China and Austria recommend just one metre distance between people.

In the strongest hint yet that the two-metre rule will be scrapped in the UK, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said today that getting rid of it would ‘make an enormous difference’ to businesses. 

Calum Semple, a professor of outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, became the first SAGE scientist to publicly endorse the plan this morning, saying the economy and schools could benefit from the change. 

Britain’s threat level was downgraded from level four to level three on Friday after SAGE confirmed that the epidemic is shrinking by 4 per cent every day and the reproduction ‘R’ rate – the average number of people a Covid patients infects – remained below one. 

A new set of lockdown measures will encourage the reopening of bars, pubs and hotels, including encouraging drinkers to order via apps as well as the halving of the two-metre rule.

Three men enjoyed their pints in Battersea, London, as pubs relaxed their rules on allowing gatherings

Ministers will next week publish legislation to push an ‘al fresco revolution’ across the nation’s hospitality industry. Outdoor eating and drinking will be actively encouraged as customers are far less likely to contract coronavirus in the fresh air.

However there are concerns that long queues outside could be an attractive target for terror. The advice says queues should be directed around bollards and other barriers that protect pedestrians.

But some pubs have vowed to carry on regardless. Jack Stein, Chef Director at his father Rick Stein’s restaurant chain, told the Telegraph: ‘It is not just about business, we are British and everyone just wants to go to the pub.

‘When we can serve that first piece of turbot and first pint in our pub it will be fantastic and the whole industry will breathe a sigh of relief.’ 

A scientist advising the Government’s coronavirus response said it would now be reasonable to reduce the two-metre rule to just one with ‘various caveats and other precautions’.

The University of Liverpool’s Professor Calum Semple, a member of SAGE, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The reason that I change my mind now and whereas I was of a very different opinion three weeks ago is that now we are in a position where there are low levels and sustained low levels of transmission throughout the country.

‘I’m still saying two metres is safer than one but in my opinion it is now a reasonable political decision to relax these rules, perhaps accelerate school opening and start opening up other parts of the economy, where it becomes harder to maintain the two-metre rule and where you might envisage going down to one metre with various caveats and other precautions and have a nuanced and flexible approach to allow parts of society to get going.’

Under the new guidelines, seen by the Times, expected next week, there will also be a ban on self-service buffets while napkins and cutlery must be brought out only with food. The guidance also states that all menus must be disposable and discarded after every use.

Any hotel guests who fall ill will be forced to self-isolate either at home or in their hotel rooms which will be cordoned off for 72 hours after they check out. Gyms will also be asked to enforce social distances between their machines – though they are not expected to reopen until later this year.

Clubbers may have to wait a while before they can hit the dancefloor however, as they pose difficulties for social distancing. Temperature checks and hand sanitiser at the door could become part of the British night out when clubs finally do reopen. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said the review of the two-metre rule, due out next week, will ‘make an enormous difference’ to businesses.

In a visit to shops in North Yorkshire, he told reporters: ‘The outcome of that review will be announced this week, obviously that’s something that will make an enormous difference I think to many businesses who are keen to see a change.

‘Obviously we need to go through that review but I’m very understanding of the calls for action on that, particularly for our hospitality industry, for our pubs, for our restaurants, (they) are keen to see if there’s some change that can be made there.’

He said progress made to stem the spread of coronavirus means the Government can begin to ‘kick-start our economy’ and that ‘starts with our high streets’.

Ministers are also in negotiations with a dozen other countries – including Spain, Portugal, Greece and France – to set up ‘air bridges’ that would allow tourists to travel between them this summer without a mandatory 14-day quarantine. 

Pubs and bars can sell takeaway booze but are not yet allowed to host customers in beer gardens. One way around the rule is offering outdoor seating. Pictured: Drinkers outside the Wolf and Badger bar in Kings Cross

People sat on pavements with their takeaway drinks outside a bar in Battersea, London, as revellers enjoyed the warm weather

School ‘bubbles’ – which currently only allow 15 pupils in a classroom at once – will also be doubled to allow all children to return to school in September and get lessons back up and running. 

And NHS bosses will write to more than 2 million vulnerable patients in England who have been shielding since March to assure them it’s safe to go to the shops and get exercise outdoors. 

It comes after it was revealed the coronavirus’s reproduction ‘R’ rate is still on the brink of spiralling out of control in three regions of England, despite the UK’s alert level being downgraded and plans to end lockdown within a fortnight being put into motion. 

Pubs will be asked to strictly monitor their beer gardens to ensure social distancing and customers will be encouraged to order their drinks via a phone app. Pictured, a London pub serving customers this week 

 Ministers are also in negotiations with a dozen other countries – including Spain, Portugal, Greece and France – to set up ‘air bridges’ that would allow tourists to travel between them this summer without a mandatory 14-day quarantine. 

School ‘bubbles’ – which currently only allow 15 pupils in a classroom at once – will also be doubled to allow all children to return to school in September and get lessons back up and running. 

And NHS bosses will write to more than 2 million vulnerable patients in England who have been shielding since March to assure them it’s safe to go to the shops and get exercise outdoors. 

Fewer than 10 countries will have an ‘air bridge’ to the UK and travelers arriving from elsewhere could have to pay for a COVID-19 test to avoid 14-day quarantine

Britain’s ‘air bridges’ plan is set to involve less than ten countries, giving tourists the ability to travel between them and the UK this summer with no mandatory 14-day quarantine.

A total of 12 countries – including Greece, Spain, Portugal and France – are being considered with officials examining both the risk of travellers bringing Covid-19 back and the popularity of the destination. 

At the moment, any traveller arriving in the UK – whether from Britain or a tourist – must quarantine for 14 days and provide their phone number and an address for self-isolation. 

The ‘air bridges’ plan is set to involve less than ten countries, giving tourists the ability to travel between them and the UK this summer with no mandatory 14-day quarantine. Pictured: Gatwick Airport this week

London City Airport will reopen this weekend after being closed for nearly three months

London City Airport reopens on Sunday after being closed to commercial flights for nearly three months.

The airport has introduced a series of new safety and hygiene measures, including enhanced cleaning, limiting terminal access to those with a ticket and mandatory face coverings.

Its first flight following the restart will be operated by Loganair on behalf of BA CityFlyer from the Isle of Man and is due to land shortly after 6pm.

Initial routes will mainly be restricted to those within the UK and Ireland, with services to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin expected to return next month.

New routes to Teesside and Dundee will be launched on July 6 while flights to sunshine destinations such as Ibiza, Florence, Malaga and Palma are likely to resume in the coming weeks.

London City’s runway was closed to commercial and private flights on March 25 due to the collapse in demand and travel restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The airport has been available to Government agencies and the military during the crisis. 

The ‘air bridge’ rules would come into play on July 4 and will likely be announced on June 29. 

But it will only go ahead if the chief medical officer provides advice on each nation and the Foreign Office lifts its non-essential travel ban to the countries in question. 

An aviation source told The Daily Telegraph: ‘It is work in progress – risk first, and how you measure that risk, followed by the popularity of the destination.’ 

Travel company Tui has told its customers that it will only fly them to countries that have air bridges in place.

The company has pledged to provide ‘quarantine-free holidays’ to all its customers, meaning they don’t have to isolate on landing or upon arriving back home in Britain. 

But this could spell disaster for holidays that are already booked should the air bridge measures not be established in time, The Sun reports.

A second plan, which could reduce the need for quarantine and kick-start the travel sector post-lockdown, is the possibility of coronavirus tests for arrivals in UK airports, The Times reports.

A trial is set to take place at a UK airport next month and will be run by Swissport and Collinson.

Nurses will administer free and optional nose swabs on those willing to take part. Saliva tests will also be trialled at the airport – which has not yet been named.

Results will be provided between seven and 24 hours later.

Greece has already introduced mandatory Covid-19 testing for arrivals from countries deemed high-risk, such as the UK. 

Anyone landing from these countries must also quarantine on arrival. 

However, these tough measures only apply to those arriving from ‘higher risk’ airports.

Those considered ‘lower risk’ include Bristol, Southend and Edinburgh and arrivals from these are only be subject to random testing.

Any plans depend on reducing the risk of a second wave meaning quarantine could stay in place for the next few months. 

This hasn’t stopped Britons eagerly looking into potential holidays, however, as searches for Spain and Greece doubled on Travelsupermarket after the nations declared they were open for business.

There has been an 18 per cent increase in people looking for Spain package holidays in just one week, the travel comparison website said. 

On week beginning June 7 , there was a 34 per cent increase in people looking for return flights from Britain on Skyscanner compared to a month ago.



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