R-Rate Drops to 1 in England as Lockdown Looms: King’s College Study

November 3, 2020 Updated: November 3, 2020

The current CCP virus wave in Britain might have started to retreat, according to new data from King’s College that shows the “R rate” has dropped to one, the magic number.

That contradicts other studies published in recent days, which track infection rates via blood or swab samples, that have shown the R rate generally between 1.4 and 1.6, meaning the virus is spreading.

Those other studies suffer from various time lags due to sample collection and processing. The study by King’s College, however, takes current snapshots of the pandemic by collecting data from people recording their symptoms on a phone app in real time.

The study is run by Dr. Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College, who announced the new findings on Twitter.

“More good news as the Zoe CSS app survey continues to show a plateauing and slight fall in new cases in England Wales and Scotland with an R of 1.0,” he wrote. “Cases still increasing in the south from a lower base.”

Spector, however, also shared other data showing that despite a fall in children and young adults, there was a rise in over-60s, whom he said are more likely to go to the hospital with the disease. “This is the reason the NHS is concerned,” he wrote. “We can’t relax.”

Epoch Times Photo
A mobile phone displays the COVID-19 Symptom Study app, in Hartley Wintney, west of London, on Aug. 19, 2020. (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest findings come as lawmakers prepare to vote on legislation that would plunge England into a national lockdown for the second time since the pandemic began in the early spring.

Some conservative MPs have already indicated that they’ll vote against the measures, with some unconvinced by evidence the government is citing.

Last week, the study, known as the ZOE COVID Symptom Study UK Infection Survey, published findings that showed the R rate was at just 1.1, significantly lower than in some other studies published around the same time.

“While cases are still rising across the UK, we want to reassure people that cases have not spiralled out of control, as has been recently reported from other surveys,” said Spector in a statement at the time.

“We are still seeing a steady rise nationally, doubling every four weeks, with the possible exception of Scotland which may be showing signs of a slow down. With a million people reporting weekly, we have the largest national survey and our estimates are in line with the ONS survey.”

According to the study’s data published on Oct. 29, there were 43,569 new daily symptomatic cases of the CCP virus in the UK on average for the two weeks before.

By contrast, a large-scale government-sponsored swab test survey put that figure at 96,000 new infections per day for the same period.

The ZOE survey’s strength is that it can provide real-time data that can be updated every day.

However, some epidemiologists say its weakness is that it misses asymptomatic COVID-19 infections, and may pick up seasonal flu symptoms.

According to the ZOE website, the survey is “based on around a million weekly reporters and the proportion of newly symptomatic users who have positive swab tests.”

Follow Simon on Twitter: @SPVeazey