Covid-19 cases in the UK remain “dangerously high” with the latest reproduction number, or R value, estimated to be between 0.7 to 1.1, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said.
An R value between 0.7 and 1.1 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between seven and 11 other people. Last week, the R value was between 0.8 and 1.
When the figure is above 1, it means the outbreak is growing exponentially but when it falls below 1, it means the outbreak is shrinking.
Sage said the estimates are based on the latest data, available up to January 25, including hospital admissions and deaths as well as symptomatic testing and prevalence studies.
It warned that cases “continue to be dangerously high and the public must remain vigilant to keep this virus under control, to protect the NHS and save lives”.
“It is essential that everyone continues to stay at home, whether they have had the vaccine or not,” Sage said.
The estimates for R and the growth rate are provided by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), a sub-group of Sage, and published by the Department of Health and Social Care.
The growth rate, which estimates how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, is between minus 5% and zero for the UK as a whole.
It means the number of new infections is broadly flat or shrinking by up to 5% every day.
It comes as an infection survey estimated that the number of people in the UK with Covid-19 in the last week remains largely unchanged from the previous week.
However, deaths associated with Covid-19 in England were at its highest proportion since the pandemic began.
Some 40.2% of all deaths in England were associated with coronavirus in the week ending January 15 compared to 33.9% in the previous week ending January 8.
The number of deaths involving Covid-19 in England increased by 20.9% to 6,767 in the week ending 15 January 2021.
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An estimated one in 55 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between January 17 and 23 – the equivalent of 1.02 million people, or 1.9% of the population.
This is broadly unchanged on the previous estimates for the period January 10 to 16.
In Wales, around one in 70 people had Covid-19 in the same period, also unchanged from the week before.
In Northern Ireland the ONS estimates around one in 50 people had Covid-19 between January 17 and 23, up slightly from one in 60.
The estimate for Scotland is also broadly unchanged, down slightly from around one in 100 people for January 10 to 16 to one in 110 for January 17 to 23.
Estimates of infection in private households by home nation:
London continues to have the highest proportion of people likely to test positive for coronavirus in any region of England, the ONS report said.
But the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus decreased in the capital alongside other regions of England – the North East, West Midlands and the South East.
Around one in 35 people in private households in London were estimated to have had Covid-19 between January 17 and 23, unchanged from the estimate for January 10 to 16.
Regional estimates of infection in private households in England:
London – 1 in 35 people
North-West England – 1 in 45 people
North-East England – 1 in 50 people
West Midlands – 1 in 55 people
Eastern England – 1 in 60 people
South-East England – 1 in 60 people
East Midlands – 1 in 70 people
South-West England – 1 in 70 people
Yorkshire and the Humber – 1 in 80 people
Hospital admission rates fell slightly in the week ending January 24 but remained high at 33.5 per 100,000 people compared with 35.6 in the previous week.
This is more than twice the rate seen in the week ending December 6 (13.3 admissions per 100,000 people).
The number of Covid-19 patients admitted to intensive care units (ICU) and high-dependency units (HDU) also remained high in the latest week at 2.4 per 100,000 people compared with 2.5 per 100,000 people in the previous week.