The R rate in the south west has risen to 1 - but health officials in Dorset are urging caution.

However, they have confirmed outbreak management plans are being drawn up should figures give them cause for concern.

These could include restrictions in certain areas of the Dorset.

The latest R rate announcement was made today, with Public Health England (PHE) releasing the regional breakdown of the coronavirus transmission number, or R value.

Bournemouth Echo:

They say the latest estimate shows it is around one in the south west and north west regions of England.

The number represents the number of people an infected person will pass coronavirus on to. The government is trying to keep this figure below one in order to stop the disease spreading.

If an area's R number becomes greater than one, the epidemic will grow exponentially and we face a second wave of the virus.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, PHE medical director, said: “Our estimates show that the regional R numbers have increased although they remain below one for most of England – this is to be expected as we gradually move out of lockdown.

“It is vital that everyone continues with social distancing, practising good hand hygiene and must remain at home and order a test if they have symptoms.”

Sam Crowe, director of Public Health for Dorset and BCP Councils said: "We are lucky that the number of cases of COVID-19 has been and still is a lot lower in Dorset than in other parts of the country. The government uses the R rate to set the alert level for the country, but the R rate is not accurate with low numbers like ours in Dorset.

"Calculating the R rate is very complex and the numbers can be misleading giving either false reassurance or creating unnecessary concerns.

"Data released today is by region and so the figures relate to the whole of the South West not just Dorset. It’s not possible to calculate an accurate R rate at a very local level.

"With such low figures even a small change can make a disproportionately big difference. For example, the increase from 1,000 and 1,009 is less than 1%. But the difference between 10 and 19 is still only 9 cases, but is a 90% increase. We can’t just use the R rate on its own.

"We are working with other directors of public health across the South West region thinking about what the triggers for an area like Dorset would be.

"We are developing outbreak management plans and we'll be thinking very carefully about what early signs would give us cause for concern.

"If we needed to introduce some restrictions in areas, we would be very clear with people about the reasons why and how we came to those decisions.

"I’d like to reassure the public that we're doing everything we can, working with Dorset and BCP Councils and other partners to support residents and continue to deliver excellent services through the pandemic."

Residents are urged to continue to take responsibility, respect the restrictions around social distancing and practice good hygiene by regularly washing hands.

If anyone has symptoms they must self-isolate immediately and book a test either online or call 119.