Before lockdown in Scotland one person with coronavirus had the potential to infect six other people. We are now eight weeks on from the “stay at home” restrictions, so is that infection level still the same?
Well, scientists and statisticians briefing journalists on Thursday morning outlined their thinking.
They begin their “technical” explainer by talking about a computer. It’s based at Edinburgh University and has taken nearly 60 hours to make an important calculation.
This isn’t a throwback to the age of slow dial-up internet, nor is it an attempt to compute the answer to life, universe, and everything,
Even then, we learned there’s still a great deal of uncertainty over the accuracy of this calculation as experts try their best to analyse what is a rapidly moving and evolving target.
So, to improve this accuracy, multiple computer models from institutions such as Imperial College London and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are run to better pinpoint a consistent rate.
For example the Imperial model has generated an R number of 0.7 to 1, whereas The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has produced a value greater than 1 in just the last week.
Given the complexity of the task and the lack of real-time data, it’s then no surprise to learn that separate R numbers for care homes, hospitals and other communities are not forthcoming.
The technical briefing also revealed that age and underlying health conditions are the main reasons for why the R rate is higher in Scotland than say, London which has a rate of 0.4.
An essential point is that Scotland has a larger aging population than other regions.
At the end of the day though, journalists were told there is no magic R number that will trigger the end of a Scottish lockdown.
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