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  • Writer's pictureLeon Grice

UK's new restrictions are needed

On our 19 August blog "Europe's second wave?" we highlighted that the UK's Reff went above 1.0 on 14 July and that it was still above 1.0 at the time of writing. We noted that the UK's Reff "seems to be coming down but if it stays above 1.0 you can expect daily cases to increase."

In the news today, Prime Minister Boris Johnston announced new social distancing measures after 2,659 more people tested positive for Covid-19. The measures include a ban on gatherings of more than six people indoors and outdoors, effective from 14 September. And quite right too, as Reff is currently at 1.7 (expect a 70% increase in new daily cases in 10-14 days). See below a screenshot from our modeller that illustrates the trends.

Concerningly, the UK has not had its reproduction number under 1.0 for seven weeks and anything above 1.0 means problems lie ahead, particularly if it sustained for some weeks. The Reff trend changed in mid August rising steadily. It may not be as apparent in the relatively stable reporting of daily new cases throughout August, but our CloseAssociate - University of Illinois method for calculating the reproduction number was clearly predicting the trend from mid-August that has manifested in the last ten days.

As a footnote we support the UK's government to push for mass testing. A 14 May blog by Dr Stephen Grice analysed social distancing versus rapid self isolation. See If the UK's mass testing strategy rolls out effectively it will have the benefit of intercepting infected people who are shedding the virus either before they are symptomatic or remain asymptomatic. Getting infected people rapidly into isolation before they normally present themselves to the health system is a highly effective strategy and is an earlier intervention in the disease cycle than social distancing. Stephen's blog includes the technical paper that was co-authored by his son, Patrick, Professor Richard Laugesen at University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana and NZDF analyst, Hannah Locke.

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