‘R number’ research must not be used to suggest Covid threat is diminishing, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Thursday 1 October 2020
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Responding to interim research findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI which found that the ‘R number’ in England fell between two periods at the beginning and end of September1, Dr David Strain, BMA medical academic staff committee co-chair, said:

“These results need to be treated with the utmost caution and should not be used in any way to suggest that the threat from the virus is diminishing.

“While the epidemic may not be expanding as quickly as it was, it is still growing. Infection rates continue to rise rapidly in many areas and remain worryingly high among certain groups. The earlier rise in cases among younger people is now spreading to older generations, who are more susceptible to the adverse effects of this potentially lethal virus.

“It is far too early to attribute any slowing in growth to the 'rule of six’ and this assumption is potentially misleading and dangerous. There are likely to have been many other factors at play during this time.

“We should not be fooled into thinking that current Government measures like the 'rule of six' – themselves confusing and inconsistent – are the silver bullet to defeating Covid-19. Everyone in their daily life needs to be aware of the risks that this deadly virus still poses and acts to mitigate this by minimising social mixing, keeping 2 metres distance from others, wearing masks when this is not possible, and maintaining excellent hand hygiene at all times.

“We cannot afford to be complacent. Doing so could easily see us slipping back to the same situation we saw earlier in the year and risk thousands more people losing their lives.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. See further details at Imperial College London and Gov.uk