The Covid R rate may now have risen above 1 in London and the south-west of England, scientists advising the government have said.
R measures the number of people, on average, that each sick person will infect.
It comes as Britain gets to grips with its most significant unlocking since November: outdoor pubs and dining, non-essential shops, as gyms and hairdressers reopened on Monday after closing at the beginning of January.
If R is greater than 1 the epidemic is generally seen to be growing; if R is less than 1 the epidemic is shrinking.
Official figures published on Friday said the overall R rate in England was between 0.7 and 1.0.
Last week it was estimated to be between 0.8 and 1.0.
But regional R rates are also reported and these paint a more concerning picture. In London, the number is now estimated to be 0.9 to 1.1 (up from 0.8 to 1.0) and in the south-west it is estimated to be 0.7 to 1.1 (up from 0.7 to 1.0).
The estimates are provided by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Sage and DHSC said “particular care should be taken” when interpreting the regional estimates.
“They are based on low numbers of cases or deaths and/or dominated by clustered outbreaks. They should not be treated as robust enough to inform policy decisions alone,” they said.
Here’s what the R rate is in each region of England
In England, the R rate is 0.7 to 1.0.
East of England – 0.7 to 1.0 ((unchanged))
London – 0.8 to 1.1 (up from 0.8 to 1.0 )
Midlands – 0.7 to 1.0 (unchanged)
North-east and Yorkshire – 0.7 to 1.0 (unchanged)
North-west – 0.6 to 0.9 ( down from 0.6 to 1.0)
South-east – 0.6 to 0.9 (down from 0.7 to 0.9)
South-west – 0.7 to 1.1 (up from 0.7 to 1.0)
For much of the pandemic an estimate of the UK-wide R rate was given.
But in the last few weeks Sage and DHSC said this was now “less meaningful” given the “increasingly localised approach to managing the epidemic” in the different nations of the UK.