UK’s Covid R rate remains steady as 1 in 16 infected with bug last week

THE UK'S coronavirus R rate has remained steady this week as one in 16 people have the bug, data has revealed.

It comes as experts and ministers alike have urged Brits not to panic as infections continue to rise.

England's chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty this week told Brits that they would need to 'roll with' an increased case rate, as we learn to live with the virus.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said the rise in cases was to be expected after lifting remaining restrictions and medics have said that the BA2 variant of Omicron, which is the dominant strain 'isn't killing people'.

Dr Simon Clarke, of Reading University said: “I don’t think we should be panicking because it’s not filling up intensive care wards, which are the NHS’s real bottleneck."

Vaccines are still the best way to prevent infection and on Monday the over-75s were told they could book in for their spring booster.

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In the first 24 hours, a further 150,000 booked in to have their top up dose.

And the Health Secretary revealed scientists are working on plans to green light a second Covid booster jab for all over-50s this Autumn.

Many people who are immunosuppressed and who have underlying health issues have already had a fourth dose and will be eligible for their fifth dose this spring.

Dr Susan Hopkins, HSA chief medical adviser said: "Vaccination is the key to staying safe from serious illness and it’s vital that everyone gets all of their recommended doses."

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Omicron is a milder strain, with studies showing vaccines slash the risk of hospitalisation, severe illness and death.

Infection rates have continued to rise in recent weeks with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealing that one in 16 people had the bug in the week ending March 19.

Around 4.26 million people tested positive for Covid during that week, just short of the 4.30 million in the first week of 2022, which was the highest total since estimates began.

But the official coronavirus R rate has remained stable across the country at 1.1-1.4 – the same rate as last week.

It could however, be as high as 1.5 in the South East of England, which has the highest rate in the country, followed by the North East and Yorkshire.

Daily cases were up by 98,204 yesterday and experts have said the virus is now looking for people it can infect, which is why it's important everyone gets their vaccines.

Prof James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, and Professor of Structural Biology, University of Oxford, said the rate of infection is now putting pressure on the NHS.

He added: "But the combination of vaccination, improved treatments and the less severe nature of Omicron means for the vast majority of those infected this will not be life threatening.

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“This wave will burn out simply by infecting all those who can be infected. Given the clear benefits of vaccination in avoid severe illness, I would advocate getting your first, second or third jag today and for those offered a fourth grab the opportunity.

“The vaccines are a triumph of science, I hope the public will support the investment in science that is necessary for this work to happen in the UK."

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