Germany’s R value spiked to 2.88 over the weekend - the science explained

An abattoir in the country's north was forced to close following an outbreak (Getty Images)An abattoir in the country's north was forced to close following an outbreak (Getty Images)
An abattoir in the country's north was forced to close following an outbreak (Getty Images)

The R rate of coronavirus in Germany rose steeply over the weekend from below one to between 1.79 to 2.88, according to official figures.

As well as a concern to Germany, which has been lauded for softening the damage to public health, the steep rise will also be of concern to the Westminster and Scottish governments as the United Kingdom continues to ease out of lockdown.

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Security Minister James Brokenshire described the rise as “concerning”.

He said: "It is concerning to see the situation in Germany and it's why we are informed in our actions by experience from around the world, why the chief scientific officer, the chief medical officer, speak to their counterparts in different parts of the world to ensure that we are applying the best learning and the best experience in informing our next steps."

How does the R measure work? 

The “R” value, or infection rate, refers to the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus to on average.

Coronavirus has an estimated reproduction number of three, meaning an infected person will likely pass the virus on to at least three other people.

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A reproduction number that is higher than one poses a significant risk, as the number of cases can increase rapidly, making it harder for the spread to be contained.

That means that if Germany’s R value is accurate, for every 100 people infected an additional 288 are likely to become affected.

Why has it risen?

The R value has seen a surge following a series of outbreaks at hospitals, care homes, religious gatherings and refugee centres.

One of the largest outbreaks took place at an abattoir in the country’s north leading to the closure of schools and the launch of an investigation.

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Abattoir company Toennies in western Germany stopped production after hundreds of employees tested positive for coronavirus

The Robert Koch Institute who measure the number of cases in the country explained that the spike in the R value is partly due to the relatively small number of cases.

Should the UK be worried?

The spike in the R value is undoubtedly concerning, but the number of new cases across Germany remains relatively low.

The Robert Koch Institute underlined the need for caution, but said that “local outbreaks have a relatively strong influence on the value”,

In a statement it said: ”Further developments need to be monitored closely during the upcoming days, especially in regard to whether case numbers are increasing outside of outbreak contexts.”