LONDON

The British government’s scientific advisory board announced on Friday that the reproduction number of coronavirus transmission across the UK was now over 1.0.

The Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said the R-value was now between 1.0 and 1.2.

The R-value represents how many people an infected person goes on to infect. When the figure is above 1.0, it means coronavirus cases can grow exponentially.

The last time the figure was above 1.0 was in March, when the national lockdown was brought in near the end of that month to contain the pandemic.

The news comes as the government announced a tightening of restrictions in Birmingham, England’s second largest city, as well as the neighboring areas of Solihull and Sandwell.

Mixing between households will be banned in these areas after an increase in coronavirus cases.

Andy Street, mayor of West Midlands county which covers the high-risk areas, said in a statement: “The following areas will now be escalated to an area of national intervention, with a ban on people socialising with people outside their own household.

“The ban will take effect from Tuesday 15th September, but residents are advised to avoid household mixing before then as it has been identified as one of the drivers of transmission.”

The government also announced that the entire Merseyside region, which includes Liverpool, has been added to Public Health England’s watch list of areas with rising coronavirus cases.

Metro Mayor of the Liverpool city region Steve Rotheram said: “Over the past week we have seen a rapid increase in coronavirus cases across the Liverpool city region. We are not yet at the stage of having extra restrictions imposed on us – as other areas have – but, if we continue on our current trajectory, it will become a case of when, not if, this happens.

“There is still time for us to stop that happening – but doing so depends on us and what we choose to do.”

Meanwhile, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford warned that Wales was facing a “gathering storm” as coronavirus cases hit 20 per 100,000 people.

“There is a serious risk of the virus spreading more widely once again,” he said.

Wales will now limit the number of people who can meet indoors, continue to encourage people to work from home where possible, and enforce face mask wearing in public places such as shops.

The British government announced a further 3,539 cases across the UK over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 361,677. There were also a further six deaths, bringing the total to 41,614.

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