NORTHERN Brits are nearly twice as likely to have coronavirus – with one in 100 currently infected with the bug.
It compares with one in 170 having Covid-19 nationally, according to the largest study of its kind.
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Experts estimate there are now 45,000 new cases each day across England, with infections doubling every 29 days.
But in Yorkshire and The Humber it is taking just 13 days.
Imperial College London scientists found the latest restrictions are having some impact, with the speed of spread slowing in the past month.
Their findings, based on data from September 18 to October 5, show that the R rate has fallen to 1.16 nationally.
The figure – which represents how many other individuals each case goes on to infect – was 1.39 in early September.
But the Yorkshire, the West Mids and the North West are faring much worse.
All of their R rates are between 1.27 and 1.37.
In contrast, it is below one in London, meaning the number of cases are currently falling in the capital.
'ADHERING TO THE MESSAGE'
Researchers think that higher levels of immunity and better adherence may explain the lower rates.
Professor Steven Riley, from Imperial College London, said: “Prior exposure will be contributing something to that, the immunity will be making some effect.
“The other explanation is that people are – because of their experience of the first wave in London, which was much more severe – adhering to the message… just a little bit better.”
The findings are based on swabs of 175,000 English volunteers between September 18 and October 5.
It comes as:
- Making face masks mandatory in offices is 'being considered'
- Covid infections DOUBLE in a week with 17,200 daily cases
- Plan to shut pubs in the North based on 'cobbled together' data from 98 cases
- Average age of Covid victim is 82.4, data reveals
- Vulnerable Brits face MONTHS indoors under shielding plans for hotspots
- Lord Sumption says lockdown measures are 'unjust and insane'
Experts behind the React study said the country is now at a "critical point in the second wave".
And warned the current measures will not be enough to bring the epidemic under control.
The highest prevalence of the virus was amongst the 18 to 24-year olds at 1.21 per cent – or one in every 83.
There is a very strong epidemiological case for trying to reduce the transmission right now.
For over- 65s, infection rates have increased eight-fold since mid-August to 0.33 per cent.
Prof Riley added: “Prevalence is going to continue to go up unless either compliance with the messaging improves, or additional measures are introduced that are supported by the general public.
"There is a very strong epidemiological case for trying to reduce the transmission right now."
The researchers warn the rapid rates in the North will replicate across the rest of the country in a few weeks’ time unless action is taken.
Professor Paul Elliott, Director of the React programme, said: “Our robust findings paint a concerning picture of the growing epidemic across England.
“While certain areas are worse affected, if left unabated then infection trends will follow nation-wide and could lead to high levels of unnecessary death and illness from the disease.”
What does R Rate mean?
R0, or R nought, refers to the average number of people that one infected person can expect to pass the coronavirus on to.
Scientists use it to predict how far and how fast a disease will spread – and the number can also inform policy decisions about how to contain an outbreak.
For example, if a virus has an R0 of three, it means that every sick person will pass the disease on to three other people if no containment measures are introduced.
It's also worth pointing out that the R0 is a measure of how infectious a disease is, but not how deadly
It comes as new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that coronavirus infections have more than doubled in a week.
The ONS said 17,200 people a day are being infected with Covid – up from 8,400 in the previous week.
Their report also reflects the findings of the REACT study and shows clear evidence of variation in Covid-19 infection rates across the regions of England.
The highest rates are in north-east England, north-west England, and Yorkshire & the Humber, which have all seen steep increases in recent weeks.
Smaller increases have occurred in all other regions except for south-east England (outside London).
When modelling the level of infection among different age groups, the ONS said the highest rates are among older teenagers and young adults (from school year 12 through to age 24), where "rates have grown very rapidly in the most recent weeks".
The second highest rates are for the secondary school age group – or kids in years seven to 11.
Increases are apparent across other age groups, but "to a much lesser extent".
It comes as Downing Street said it "won't hesitate to act" to tackle rising cases amid reports that new restrictions will be imposed next week.
A Number 10 spokesman said: "We have been clear that we are seeing cases rise across the country, especially in the North East and North West.
"And as we have been clear throughout the pandemic, we will continue to keep all that data under review and won't hesitate to act in order to protect communities and save lives."
The spokesman did not confirm when the Government would announce a new three-tier local lockdown system, which is reportedly to be outlined on Monday.
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