THE coronavirus R number in the south east has fallen, government figures show.

The R rate - which refers to the number of people infected by each person with COVID-19 - needs to be below 1 in order for the number of cases to fall.

Figures published on Friday by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) revealed the reproduction number, referred to as R, for the UK as a whole is between 0.8 to 1.

The data suggests the R number in our area - the south east - is between 0.9 - 1.

It is a very slight fall from the previous week (August 28), when the data showed the R number was between 0.9 to 1.1.

The growth rate for the region, which is an estimation of the percentage change in the number of infections each day, has also risen/fallen over the last seven days.

Department of Health figures show the growth rate for the South East is now -2 to +1, having also fallen from - 2 to +1.

Across the UK, meanwhile, the R rate is now 0.9 to 1.1 and the latest growth rate range is -1 per cent to +2 per cent.

A growth rate between -1 per cent and +2 per cent means the number of new infections is somewhere between shrinking by 1 per cent and growing by 2 per cent every day.

What is the R number?

The reproduction number is a way of rating coronavirus or any disease's ability to spread.

It's the number of people that one infected person will pass a virus on to, on average.

Measles has one of the highest numbers with an R number of 15 in populations without immunity.

That means, on average, one person will spread measles to 15 others.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) - known officially as Sars-CoV-2 - has a reproduction number of about three, but estimates vary.

How is R calculated?

You can't capture the moment people are infected. Instead, scientists work backwards.

Data - such as the number of people dying, admitted to hospital or testing positive for the virus - is used to estimate how easily the virus is spreading.

Why is a number above one dangerous?

If the reproduction number is higher than one, then the number of cases increases very fast - it snowballs like debt on an unpaid credit card.

But if the number is lower the disease will eventually stop spreading, as not enough new people are being infected to sustain the outbreak.