Coronavirus R number rises above 2 and set to climb higher

Vaccines saved an estimated 88,000 people from hospital. Photo: Depositphotos
Vaccination could have kept the Delta variant in check, said Aura Timen. Photo: Depositphotos

The reproductive rate of coronavirus surged to its highest level since the start of the pandemic at the end of June, according to the RIVM’s latest calculations.

The ‘R’ number, which determines how many people the average infected person passes the virus on to, was calculated at 2.17 for June 28.

Aura Timen, head of the National Co-ordination Centre for Infectious Disease Control, told a parliamentary briefing that the rise was caused by the relaxation of coronavirus measures on June 26.

Two-fifths of recent infections where the source was known were in open spaces such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs. ‘People’s homes have always the number one source until now, but that has been overtaken by the catering sector,’ Timen said.

The R number is based on the date of infection and is calculated around 14 days later to take the incubation period into account. If it is above 1 the disease is spreading exponentially.

Between June 2 and June 16 it was below 0.8 as the number of infections fell by around 60%, but the rate started to creep up in the second half of the month as the more infectious Delta variant started to spread through the population.

Timen said the relaxation of the rules had ‘wiped out’ the gains made in June and exacerbated the emergence of the Delta strain.

‘It could have been kept in check with the high level of vaccination. We were in a very strong downward phase of the epidemic. The number of vaccines helped us to compensate for the effect of the Delta variant.’

The highest R level recorded was 2.18 on February 24, three days before the first case in the Netherlands was confirmed. The figure is expected to pass that number in the next few weeks because of the very high rise in infections in the first week of July.

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