Coronavirus: R rate may be as high as 1.8 in Northern Ireland, government says

The R rate – a crucial measure of how quickly coronavirus is spreading – has jumped in Northern Ireland. 

The devolved government’s health department said it rose from between 0.5 to 1 last week, to between 0.8 and 1.8.

The rate represents how many people someone with COVID-19 will, on average, pass the disease on to.

Scientists caution that as case numbers drop, the figure will shift with “volatility” and be “heavily influenced by small local clusters”.

“Community transmission remains low in Northern Ireland,” the devolved government said on Thursday.

“Although it is important to note that the number of positive tests per day has increased threefold from early July.”

It comes as the Public Health Agency (PHA) said more than 20 coronavirus clusters have been identified in Northern Ireland.

Of the 23 pinpointed in the region since 25 May when the test and trace programme went live, 11 clusters remain open.

Some 168 cases of COVID-19 have been linked with these clusters, with nine of the clusters having had five or more cases associated with them.

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