The growth rate of Covid-19 transmission in the south west has dropped, new figures published by the Government show.

In the South West, the growth rate dropped from between minus 7% and plus 2% to between minus 6% and plus 1%.

The growth rate reflects how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day and, as the number of infections decreases, it is a way of keeping track of the virus.

If the growth rate is greater than zero, and therefore positive, then the disease will grow, and if the growth rate is less than zero, then the disease will shrink.

Meanwhile, the current rate of transmission for Covid-19 for the country as a whole remains at less than one.

Bournemouth Echo:

The R value, which is the number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect, remains unchanged, sitting at between 0.7 and 0.9.

However, the R rate in the south west has risen to between 0.7 and 1.1, compared with 0.7 to 1 from last week.

R estimates do not indicate how quickly an epidemic is changing and different diseases with the same R can result in epidemics that grow at very different speeds.

The figures were published by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

It said when case numbers fall to low levels, then “estimates of R and the growth rate become insufficiently robust to inform policy decisions”.

It added: “When case numbers are low uncertainty increases and fluctuations in the data can have a significant impact on the estimates.

“Furthermore, when there is a significant amount of variability across a region, for example due to a local outbreak, then a single average doesn’t accurately reflect the way infections are changing throughout the region.”

Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said: “That the number of cases is falling slightly is to be welcomed.

“This suggests, that so far, relaxation of the lockdown has not precipitated a second wave.

“It has to be emphasised that no one knows what the safe level of relaxation is for the UK and there is a delay between action and consequence. The virus is here and we could easily see a surge in cases if a mistake is made.”

He added: “These numbers also tell us that we are unlikely to eliminate the virus from the UK before the winter.

“In any event the virus has become global, without a vaccine we have to plan for its presence.

“It seems likely that the onset of colder weather will see the virus begin to spread more rapidly.

“We have a short breathing space to get ourselves organised to cope with the winter.”