THE UK could face a second lockdown as officials warn of a "bumpy autumn and winter" ahead.
More restrictions could be brought in to tackle infections after the R-rate crept over one for the first time since restrictions were lifted.
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Yesterday, the Sage advisory group said Britain’s reproduction number was between 0.9 and 1.1, with senior sources warning “more nationwide measures” may be needed.
Manchester and Leicester have already faced local lockdowns, while people in Oldham and Blackburn will not be allowed to meet with any other households from midnight on Saturday.
While government experts said the R rate was not representative of the country as a whole, they are looking carefully at the situation across Europe.
A senior government source told The Telegraph: “If it doesn’t get contained it may be that some things that have been open, you need to think about whether measures need to be taken to reverse things.
“The strategy is to manage this through local outbreak management, but if it moves in the direction of Spain, then clearly you can see what’s happening there, and in France, people are making more nationwide measures.
"It depends on the trajectory, and how quickly we can get on top of outbreaks.”
Another source added: “We’re looking at a pretty bumpy autumn and winter and that’s going to go in the direction of increased cases and increased outbreaks.”
Scientists fear Britain could follow countries like Spain, Europe’s fastest rising caseload, with 142 cases per 100,000 people.
The number of daily cases in the holiday hotspot have risen from 150 when lockdown eased on June 21 to more than 3,000 – while hospital admissions have jumped to around 750 per day.
Britain has far fewer cases in comparison, with 11 cases per 100,000 people and just 97 admitted to hospital yesterday.
Data from Public Health England showed confirmed cases in England increased from 5,763 to 6,418 in the week to August 16 (up 11 per cent) – although the country has seen a recent ramp up in testing.
R RATE RISES
Sage experts warned on Friday that the coronavirus R rate could be above the crucial value of 1 across the UK, with four regions in England seeing a slight increase in the measure since last week.
Oliver Johnson, a University of Bristol professor of information theory, said: “The major concern is that R values of this magnitude do not leave a significant margin before the epidemic starts to grow in size again, and raise the possibility that some re-openings may need to be reversed to allow schools to open safely.”
When the value is below one, it means transmission of the virus is no longer high.
Experts warn that as Covid cases are much lower than they were at the peak of the pandemic, the R rate is more sensitive to small outbreaks.
Last week, the UK's R rate was in a range between 0.8 to 1.0, but that's now up to 0.9 to 1.1.
The North West, South West, London and South East have also seen slight increases in their R rates.
Hospital admissions remain low – fewer than 100 every day – and intensive care staff say they are seeing less Covid-19 patients in recent weeks.
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