Speaking at the Government’s press briefing, Sir Patrick stated the UK’s infection rate still stood at under one for the majority of the country. However, with the prospect of schools reopening from next month, the Government adviser admitted the infection rate could potentially rise. Following a question on schools, Sir Patrick stated the re-opening of schools and therefore, increased contact, does “put pressure” on the R-rate.
He said: “Schools are very low risk, not zero risk but there have been serious cases in children of course but very few in comparison to adults.
“The broader risk of reopening schools is that when you re-introduce any form of contact is that you put pressure on the R-rate.
“And put pressure on numbers and that is true for any changes on contact.
“The judgement early on was that schools are a relatively part of that risk.
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“Although there are various consequentials around reopening schools.”
As stated in the Government’s guidance, the R-rate is the average number of additional people infected by each infected person.
Crucially, the UK’s R-rate remains at between 0.7-1 but could increase depending on the amount of contact.
Sir Patrick added: “There are various scenarios which can make risk lower or higher.
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“Things like safe environments, things like class size, the amount of face to face contact.
“These are things on which we have given science advice on which policy can be determined.
“It’s worth reflecting the overall risk is not one which is a high-risk area of R, unlike dentistry.
“It’s not zero but there is a consequence of reintroducing any increased contact.”
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Keeping the R-rate down to below one even pushing it further past 0.7, is a key element in the Government’s strategy.
If the number falls towards zero, it will contribute to the Government relaxing certain lockdown measures.
However, if the R-rate rises above one or further, the Government has insisted it will reinforce previously relaxed measures in order to contain the spread.
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Announcing his plan to end lockdown, Mr Johnson stated the importance of maintaining a low infection rate.
He said: “We must make sure that any measures we take do not force the reproduction rate of the disease – the R – back up over one, so that we have the kind of exponential growth we were facing a few weeks ago.”