The coronavirus R rate in Britain has risen to between 1.1 and 1.3 and it is at least one or higher in every region of England except the North East and North West.
R is a number used to show how many people each person who catches the coronavirus infects before they recover. It must be at one or lower to stop the outbreak shrinking.
This week marks the third week in a row that the figure has risen since the national lockdown brought it down to 1.0 in November.
SAGE, which is headed up by chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance, said: ‘All NHS England regions have R estimates that are above or span 1, suggesting the epidemic is growing in much of the country, with London, the South East, and the East of England clearly above 1.’
The estimates, which take into account data up to December 18 so don’t include any effects of the Tier Four rules in London and the South East, come as a new, more infectious strain of the coronavirus is fast becoming dominant in the South.
The variant, now known as B.1.1.7, has spread like wildfire across the capital and home counties and is thought to be on track to become the main version of coronavirus circulating in the UK.
Professor Neil Ferguson, a prolific epidemiologist and Government adviser dubbed ‘Professor Lockdown’, today said it appeared to have triggered ‘explosive outbreaks’ in schools in London.