R rate rises to 1.3 in North West as cases doubling ‘every week’

Coronavirus infections are doubling every seven to eight days nationally while the infection 'R-rate' for the North West has shot up to 1.3, according to new figures.

The R-rate is an estimate of how many people on average an infected patient would pass the virus on to, with anything under 1 meaning infections levels would drop.

The figure of 1.3 is a major concern, meaning infections could increase by between 2-5% each day.

The Government R-rate figures were released alongside data from a major national study conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, which tested 300,000 volunteers across England between July 24 and September 7.

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It found that covid-19 cases are no longer clustering in healthcare or care home settings, as seen in May and June, suggesting the virus is now spread more widely in the community.

Based on their findings, scientists estimated that between August 22 and September 7, 13 people per 10,000 were infected, compared with four people per 10,000 between July 24 and August 11.

Infections are increasing across all adult age groups below the age of 65 years and across all areas of the country, with higher rates seen in young people aged 18 to 24 years.

Infection is highest in Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East and the North West.

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The data comes from the third report of the REACT-1 study, the largest in the UK on coronavirus infections rates.

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Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, said: "Our large and robust dataset clearly shows a concerning trend in coronavirus infections, where cases are growing quickly across England and are no longer concentrated in key workers.

"What we are seeing is evidence of an epidemic in the community and not a result of increased testing capacity.

"This is a critical time and it’s vital that the public, our health system and policy-makers are aware of the situation as we cannot afford complacency.”

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We’ve seen all across the world how a rise in cases, initially among younger people, leads to hospitalisations and fatalities.

"The pandemic is not over, and everyone has a role to play to keep the virus at bay and avoid another further restrictions.

"It’s so important that everyone abides by the law and socialise in groups up to six, make space between you and those outside your household, get a test and self-isolate if you develop symptoms and wash your hands regularly.

"It is vital you engage with NHS Test and Trace service if contacted to provide details of your close contacts and self-isolate if you are asked to do so."

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It has been confirmed today that Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley and St Helens have all now been placed on the covid-19 danger list because of spiralling infection rates across the borough.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said he had been given the expected news that the whole region is now on the watch list.

He said leaders in the region will now have to report back to government on measures being taken to avoid a local lockdown in the region.

Being on the 'watch list' means that the government is now closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Merseyside regarding infection rates and could soon impose new restrictions on the region if cases continue to rise.

Merseyside areas will now be classed as areas of concern and this could then be escalated to areas of enhanced support and then intervention as we have seen in places like Leicester and more recently Bolton.

Confirming the news to the ECHO today, Mayor Anderson said: "As expected we have had confirmation that the whole Merseyside region is now on the government's coronavirus watch list.

"This means we are being monitored and could be close to local lockdown measures.

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"We will be taking very serious action against any businesses that are not complying with coronavirus safety measures as we do everything we can to avoid more restrictions."

Liverpool's infection rate has rocketed in recent days and now stands at more than 60 cases per 100,000 following a 7-day period where more than 300 new cases were confirmed.

Speaking at a city council cabinet meeting this morning, Liverpool's Public Health Director said the rise in cases in Liverpool was 'very concerning.'

He said: "This is a very concerning situation for us, there has been a very rapid rise in infections.

“These cases are rising across the whole city, we are experiencing widespread community transmission of Covid-19.”

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