The R Number

We need to give people and business clarity re the way forward. We cannot continue to just make general statements about how difficult a position we are in. Everyone knows that and some ,sadly, more than others. If we genuinely want "grown up conversations" then we should treat the population as grown up. 99.9% of the population are responding magnificently so don't let the 0.1% set the strategy for how we articulate the way forward. The R number is key so make it front and centre- not some magic number that we hint about where it sits. Publish it daily and indicate to the 99.9% what specific things could be relaxed if we can get to a certain level, if it slips publish it and indicate the areas that are driving the slippage and what the reactive steps will be. Publish daily what the 5 biggest areas of concern the police have regarding areas of non-compliance., and ask for peoples support to address that. There are many other ways but we keep hearing that this is about the science. Well make the science visible and give people some trust and credit. I believe if there is a target and measurable steps then the 99.9% have demonstrated they are responsible , caring people who will respond and allow us to return to a degree of normality sooner.

Why the contribution is important

I feel there is a lack of trust being shown to the vast majority due to concerns over the vast minority and how they do and could behave going forward. After weeks of millions demonstrating how responsible they are then we need to give them some confidence and hope. People understand and respond to numbers and targets. If we just keep it about words and generalities then frustration and lack of buy-in grows. The millions who are acting so responsibly and magnificently deserve a grown up conversation!

by Robert1000 on May 08, 2020 at 12:21PM

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Average rating: 4.0
Based on: 7 votes


  • Posted by Malcolm24 May 08, 2020 at 12:43

    Firstly the R number should correctly be referred to as the R0 - "R nought". This is not just pedentry. It is the basic reproductive value in a non immune and non previously exposed population. The reason it is not being revealed is because government does not know. This is in large part due to the failure to target tests in areas of high risk e.g care homes and hospitals or to do population sampling. The epidemic behaviour is consistent with the R0 being around 3 during the phase prior to control measures. Other information suggests community spread is now under 0.5 possibly well under, based on lack of new ITU admissions and other observed data in hospitals. It is clear that the health and care transmission is above 1 - possibly significantly so. This needs a complex and focussed approach. Continued lockdown does not address or resolve this. In summary - focus testing - you will not like what you find in health and social care but act on it. Target representative samples at random e.g council wards to get correct spot data for positive swabs at this time. Then you have meaningful data and you can plan tbe response.
  • Posted by Don May 08, 2020 at 13:06

    While your idea is good, unfortunately the R number cannot be properly calculated it is only an estimate and has a very wide range. If there was mass testing of the general population (or Mass testing in a “representative” area of the UK then a reasonably accurate R number could be published
  • Posted by MatthewSlack May 08, 2020 at 13:17

    It is not possible to determine the R number accurately enough in real time to use it in the way suggested because we do not know how many people are infected or how many have been infected in the days past. Without that input data the R number can only be estimated, and the wide ranges seen when the R number is reported show just how imprecisely it is known: 0.5 to 0.9 cannot support anything but continued extreme caution. I like the thinking behind the idea, but the R number is not a robust foundation on which to base it.
  • Posted by gilldougall May 08, 2020 at 13:28

    It would be interesting to know how the R0 for care homes impacts on the value for the population as a whole. However, I realise this isn't possible without a very different approach to testing.
  • Posted by cj2000bb May 09, 2020 at 01:25

    Think non compliance is much higher than 0.1% as there is no real enforcement. Strip out Care Home data then calculate R number to get a true reflection of community transmission.
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