Lancashire could be facing another full coronavirus lockdown if the R number worsens over the next fortnight.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned yesterday “There is a challenge in the North West of England that we need to address.”The region currently has an R number of 1.01, up from 0.73 a few weeks ago. But what is the R number and why is it so important?
What is the R number?
The reproduction number (R) is the average number of secondary infections produced by 1 infected person.
An R number of 1 means that on average every person who is infected will infect 1 other person, meaning the total number of new infections is stable.
If R is 2, on average, each infected person infects 2 more people.
f R is 0.5 then on average for each 2 infected people, there will be only 1 new infection. If R is greater than 1 the epidemic is generally seen to be growing, if R is less than 1 the epidemic is shrinking.
The range is an estimate based on latest data available to determine infection and transmission rates.
Data such as contacts, hospital admissions, ICU admissions and deaths generally takes 2 to 3 weeks for changes in R to be reflected in these data sources, due to the time between infection and needing hospital care.
What is being done about it?
Areas that see a spike in the R number could be put into local lockdown measures. Speaking at the daily coronavirus press briefing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was asked whether the relevant infrastructure was in place to crack down in local areas, Mr Hancock said “yes”.
He said he had engaged with council leaders and metro mayors through the track and trace programme.
Mr Hancock said: “I think everyone should exercise caution. “In a way the discussion of the higher R in the North West and South West that’s estimated compared to the rest of the country is an important part in terms of moving towards a more local approach.”
He added: “That doesn’t take away from the need to make sure we spot and crack down on localised outbreaks when they come.”
Will Lytham St Annes face a second lockdown?
This warning about the rising rate in the region will prompt questions about a potential return to stricter lockdown restrictions in the North West.
The government has said that when it comes to its plan of managing the virus going forward, it will look at the possibility of local lockdowns in areas with high infection rates.
With the North West now holding the highest rate in the country, this could well be considered for parts of our region.
At the start of this week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock spoke about the prospect of local lockdowns at the Downing Street press conference.
He said: “The truth is, we are attempting to move the system from national blanket measures to a more targeted approach.
“But we’ve always said we are prepared to reintroduce measures either nationally or on a more local level if needed.
“The goal is of course of keeping the R rate below 1.
“Taking local action to respond to a local flare up is an incredibly important part of the tool kit.”
“The Local director of Public Health at a local council has a statutory duty and responsibility and they would work with regional NHS teams to get the response right.”
When will a second lockdown take place?
It’s impossible to give an exact day at this stage but it could be from this weekend.
When asked whether entire cities could be locked down this weekend, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We’ve definitely got the ability and we will target specific settings or particular regions, or geographic areas, yes, absolutely.”
Local public health teams will be at the forefront of any local lockdowns, which will also rely on a fully operational and successful test, track and trace system.
But that system is not fully up and running and plans for localised action have not yet been finalised.
We can expect to hear many more questions about the prospect of local lockdowns and the North West’s worrying infection rate in the near future.
Credits: Liverpool Echo / David Raven