The R number (replication rate) is not king

The Govt is right to give high importance to the R number in making decisions about the virus, but the role of the Govt is to balance all social and health considerations in deciding the way forward. It must make sense to try to keep R below one (and so avoid the virus spread becoming exponential) but the Govt must acknowledge and accept publicly that their overall objective here is to achieve the optimal social and health outcome. The lockdown has profound social and health consequences of its own, especially the longer it continues. The Govt should be honest enough to say now that, while they are trying as hard as possible to find an optimal way forward that keeps R below 1, the optimal way forward may not have R below 1. There are no easy solutions here. People will die and suffer as a result of Covid and steps taken to combat it, and having a one dimensional fixation on the R number be8mg below 1 at all costs would plainly be wrong. It would help the public briefing process if the many adverse consequences on health and social welfare from the lockdown were also highlighted.

Why the contribution is important

The public deserve a fully adult presentation of the health and social position from the virus and the lockdown.

by OwenVickers on May 05, 2020 at 05:45PM

Current Rating

Average rating: 3.0
Based on: 14 votes


  • Posted by JackWhyte49 May 05, 2020 at 17:51

    If R is more than 1, the virus spreads exponentially and eventually overwhelms the NHS so we would need another lockdown. The UK govt is beginning to come up with some better ideas to lower the rate of infection - if they fully commit to a proper (ie. not app based) test, trace, isolate strategy then there is a chance of coming out of this in June - otherwise the Scottish Govt should go ahead with current plans ad, if necessary, control our borders to keep the infection rate under control.
  • Posted by Jane May 05, 2020 at 17:52

    Agree - the next mature discussion needs to be more a more holistic one looking at all aspects in the round - short medium and longer term .
  • Posted by IanB May 05, 2020 at 18:00

    As soon as R goes above one we're back in quasi-exponential growth, which will overwhelm the heath service and require another lockdown or result in large numbers of premature deaths. If you really think the economy it health service will survive that ...
  • Posted by JohnT May 05, 2020 at 18:04

    If R is not below 1, then the incidence of Covid-19 will increase, and that is something we cannot live with. It may be that we can live with the R number being 0.9 rather than aiming for 0.2, but above one is unacceptable and unsustainable.
  • Posted by lindyloo May 05, 2020 at 18:06

    Coronavirus seems to be the only thing the government is interested in. Nevermind the mental impact the lockdown is having on people. At the end of the day everyone on this planet will die at some point with something. It is unreasonable to ask everyone to put their life on hold till the never, never. It's all very well to say we are protecting peoples lives but what is the point in letting us all live longer if theres no quality of life. It seems every time theres a glimmer of hope the lockdown is lifted the goal posts move. We also need to see concrete scientific evidence behind the decisions politicians are making and not just "maybes" and "possibilities" . We also need to be looking at scientific evidence from other countries and not just from here
  • Posted by Colette May 05, 2020 at 18:33

    When we went into lockdown, we were told that it was necessary to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. The R number at that time was estimated at 3, yet the NHS was not overwhelmed and additional capacity was not heavily used. This would seem to me to be an indication that lockdown has been too severe. R should not be the most important thing. Testing, tracking and tracing whilst shielding the most vulnerable should be used. We should be looking at Germany and Sweden
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