What happened to the use of the ‘R rate’?

Throughout much of the pandemic it has seemed as if ministers and their scientific advisers could barely get through a sentence without mentioning the “R”.

A hitherto obscure epidemiological concept which describes whether a disease is spreading or in retreat, the term was referenced incessantly at the daily Downing Street briefings.

An R value of less than 1, denoting a decrease in the rate of transmission, was even made an explicit condition of the official strategy to exit lockdown.

As with much of The Government’s core messaging, the idea successfully cut through.

Ordinary people began to speak of the R as if they were discussing the weather, or the score of a football match.

It is striking, therefore, that amid the clamour of public statements made in response to the surge of cases in Leicester, and the subsequent local lockdown, the R value has scarcely been mentioned.

Addressing the House of Commons on Monday, Matt Hanock instead spoke of the seven-day infection rate and of cases per 100,000 (Leicester has 135 – three times’ the next highest city).

The Health Secretary also talked of daily hospital admissions for Covid-19 in the area (between six and 10 in Leicester, against one at other trusts).

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