Experts contradict Dominic Raab by claiming coronavirus transmission rate is rising

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during a media briefing in Downing Street. Photo: Pippa Fowles/10 Dow

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during a media briefing in Downing Street. Photo: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Coronavirus cases in care homes and hospitals are driving up the transmission rate of the virus, experts have warned, in contradiction of Dominic Raab's comments at the latest Downing Street briefing.

Ahead of Boris Johnson considering an easing of lockdown measures, Dominic Raab tried to present good news by revealing that the rate of infection for Covid-19 – the R value – was between 0.5 and 0.9 and the number of new cases was 'steadily falling'.

He made the remarks as the death toll rose by 539 to a total of 30,615.

But as he spoke John Edmunds, professor of infectious disease modelling at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said he believed latest estimates of the reproduction value (R0) to be between 0.75 and 1.0.

Prof Edmunds told the Science and Technology Committee that a couple of weeks ago the average number of people an infected person can expect to pass the virus on to was 0.6 or 0.7, maybe up to 0.8, but because of infection rates in care homes and hospitals the overall estimate stood at up to 1.0.

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Answering questions from the media, Office for National Statistics chief Sir Ian Diamond agreed that R0 had probably gone up in the past fortnight, in contradiction of Raab's original introduction.

He told the Downing Street press conference: 'That is driven by the epidemic in care homes, he would say and I would not demur from that.

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'That gives us a real challenge to reduce the epidemic in care homes and it's one that I think - over the next few weeks from what I see happening - will happen.'

He added that 'at the moment we need, certainly, to get on top of the epidemic in care homes and in hospitals', but 'in the community we have things relatively low at the moment'.

Ensuring the 'R' value remains below 1.0 is a key test for the government for lifting lockdown measures so it was left to Raab to reassure the public that it was still good news.

He said: 'Overall R is down. but there's obviously, clearly a challenge that remains in care homes.'

He insisted the government is 'confident' it has the plan to decrease the infection rates in those environments.

'Testing is part of that but also it's the movement of people in and out of those settings which is fuelling that transmission, so they're both parts of that problem.

'There's not a silver bullet here, it's about putting all the different bits of the jigsaw together and having a strategic, holistic approach.

'We're confident now we've got enough information, we've got the data and we've got the plan in place to really drive the infection rates in hospitals, but also in care homes.'

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the increasing infection rate is a consequence of failing to implement infection control in social care.

He tweeted: 'Many warned care homes were highly vulnerable calling for a credible strategy to protect residents & care workers with PPE and accessible, regular testing.

'If 'R' now increasing because of social care surely exposes govt failures to implement infection control in social care.'

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