UK's Virus Spread Rate Hits Unwanted Threshold

No more than 6 people can gather indoors thanks to rise in 'R number'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2020 12:09 PM CDT
UK's Virus Spread Rate Hits Unwanted Threshold
Commuters, some wearing protective masks, travel on a subway in London on May 18, 2020.   (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

If you're in the United Kingdom, don't plan on getting together with more than a half-dozen people at one time in the immediate future. That's because the country is experiencing an uptick in virus cases, leading to the implementation of new laws on social distancing. Per the BBC, the "rule of six" will go into effect Monday, banning any more than that number of people from indoor gatherings in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Birmingham, the UK's second largest city, has even stricter restrictions, due to a spike in cases there, Bloomberg reports: Starting Tuesday, residents in the city and in two nearby boroughs won't be allowed to get together with anyone outside of their own household.

The stat that's causing particular concern: the nation's reproduction number, or "R number," which represents the average number of people that one person with COVID-19 will infect. Per Reuters, the UK government said Friday that the R number is now between 1.0 and 1.2; a separate study by Imperial College says that number could be as high as 1.7, adding that the number of COVID-19 cases is doubling every week or so. Health experts note that when that figure creeps up above 1.0, the virus is spreading exponentially. Scientists say the last time the UK apparently saw an R number above that threshold was in early March, right before the country went into lockdown. Both the BBC and Bloomberg note that the surge in UK virus cases is especially prevalent among young people. (More coronavirus stories.)

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