The rate of coronavirus infections across the UK is slowing in all regions with the all important R-rate for transmission being below 1 for the first time since December, according to the latest updates.
The government said on Friday the R-rate was thought to be betwen 0.8 and 1.
R represents the average number of people each Covid-positive person goes on to infect. When the figure is above 1, it means the outbreak is growing exponentially.
An R number between 0.8 and 1 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 8 and 10 other people.
The growth rate, which estimates how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, is between -4 per cent and -1 per cent for the UK as a whole.
It means the number of new infections is shrinking by between 1 per cent and 4 per cent every day.
It is the first real sign that the lockdown, announced on 4 January, is working and preventing the spread of the virus, which has seen a new more transmissable variant lead to a surge in hospitalisations and deaths in recent weeks.
While the R-rate is below 1 in London and the east of England and at or below 1 in the southeast, it could still be above 1 in some parts of England.
The range for the midlands, northwest and southwest regions is between 0.9 and 1.2, while in the northeast and Yorkshire it’s between 0.8 and 1.1.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “All regions of England have seen decreases in the R number and growth rate estimates compared to last week, and R is below or around 1 in every region. There is variation across the country with R estimated to be below 1 in areas that have been under tighter restrictions for longest, including tier 4 over the festive period (ie east of England, London and the southeast).
“We are confident the epidemic is shrinking in these areas. We are not yet confident that infections are decreasing in regions where the R estimate spans 1.
“Cases remain dangerously high and we must remain vigilant to keep this virus under control, to protect the NHS and save lives. It is essential that everyone continues to stay at home, whether they have had the vaccine or not. We all need to play our part, and if everyone continues to follow the rules, we can expect to drive down the R number across the country.”
Around one in 35 people in private households in London had Covid-19 between 10 and 16 January, according to the Office for National Statistics. This is the highest figure for any region in England.
The ONS estimates that around one in 40 people in northeast England had Covid-19 during this period, with one in 50 in northwest England and the West Midlands.
The other estimates are one in 55 people in southeast England, one in 60 in the east midlands, one in 75 in eastern England, one in 80 in southwest England and one in 85 in Yorkshire and the Humber.
In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the seven-day incidence rate for the country has fallen from above 650 cases per 100,000 people before Christmas to around 270 cases per 100,000 people.
“These are still very high rates and around 16 per cent of tests are coming back positive, suggesting there is still a lot of infection in the community,” Mr Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff.
“Every day, we are now seeing cases of the virus fall in the community but we need to see that fall also happen in our NHS.”
Mr Drakeford said there were “encouraging signs” that the number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus was starting to stabilise but there were still “very high numbers” and critical care units remained under “enormous strain”.
He said the Covid-19 variant sometimes called the Kent variant was now “widespread across Wales”.
“We are closely monitoring three other new variants, one from South Africa and two from Brazil,” Mr Drakeford said.
“All of these are cause for concern. We already have six cases of the South African variant identified here in Wales.”