22/05/2020 14:16 BST | Updated 23/05/2020 09:02 BST

Lockdown Could End In London Before Rest Of UK, No.10 Hints

University of Cambridge study showed the R number in London could be as low as 0.4.

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London could emerge from the coronavirus lockdown before other parts of the country. 

In a briefing with reporters on Friday, Downing Street did not rule out measures being eased in the capital before anywhere else. 

It comes as the R rate – the reproduction rate of the disease – is thought to be falling at a faster rate in London and Boris Johnson aims to start rebuilding the economy. 

The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “As we are able to gather more data and have better surveillance of a rate of infection in different parts of the country then we will be able to lift measures quicker in some parts of the country than in others.

“And equally we will be able to put the brakes on in some parts of the country while not having to do so in other parts.”

Any R number above 1.0 may lead to a second peak of the disease, as cases could grow exponentially from that point, scientists and health experts caution. 

A study published by the University of Cambridge, and backed by Public Health England, showed the R number in London could be as low as 0.4.

A commuter wearing a protective face mask walks along the platform at Clapham Common underground station, London, as train services increase this week as part of the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

London was the first part of the UK to see a sharp rises in cases, with deaths and figures for positive tests peaking earlier in the crisis. 

When the prime minister announced plans to begin easing restrictions, the R rate nationally was between 0.5 and 0.9. 

The value crept up to between 0.7 and 1.0 last week but ministers admit the figure was calculated using some data which may now be out of date. 

A new official estimate is due to be unveiled by home secretary Priti Patel at the Downing Street briefing on Friday. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock revealed on Thursday that a government antibody surveillance study found 17% of people in the capital may have  recovered from the virus. 

The figure for other parts of the country was 5%. 

He said: “This has told us that around 17% of people in London and around 5% or higher in the rest of the country have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.”

He also confirmed that the government has signed contracts with two private companies to supply 10 million antibody tests. 

Antibody testing is regarded as a “game changer” in moves to ease restrictions.