NEWS3 January 2023

UKHSA to end Covid-19 ‘R rate’ publication

Covid-19 Healthcare News Public Sector UK

UK – The UK Health Security Agency will cease its publication of Covid-19 modelling data from 6th January, the agency has announced.

Person wearing a medical mask

At the end of 2022, the organisation announced it would seek to end publication of the growth rate and ‘R’ rate for the reproduction of Covid-19, citing the widespread take-up of vaccines and better treatments for the virus.

The R rate is the average number of secondary infections produced by a single infected person, with scores of more than one seen as evidence that Covid-19 was growing within the wider population.

Nick Watkins, chief data scientist at the UK Health Security Agency, said in a statement that surveillance of Covid-19 would be “scaled down” but “still closely monitored through a number of different indicators” despite ceasing publication of the R Rate.

Watkins added that the organisation would consider reintroducing the publication of the modelling data if needed, such as if a new variant of concern was identified.

However, the UK Health Security Agency will continue to publish the modelling data for Office for National Statistics statistical bulletins, as well as running its own weekly surveillance report and Covid-19 infection survey.

The latest Covid-19 figures for December 2022, the second-to-last edition of the figures, showed the R rate in England was between one and 1.2, with a growth rate between 0% and 4%.

In February 2022, the UK government decided to end all legal Covid-19 measures, citing the UK’s high vaccination rate against the virus and a desire to learn to live with Covid-19.

Watkins said: “During the pandemic, the R value, growth rate and medium term projection served as useful indicators to inform public health action and government decisions.

“Now that vaccines and therapeutics have allowed us to move to a phase where we are living with Covid-19, with surveillance scaled down but still closely monitored through a number of different indicators, the publication of this specific data is no longer necessary.

“We continue to monitor Covid-19  activity in a similar way to how we monitor a number of other common illnesses and diseases.”