Coronavirus: What is the UAE's 'R rate' and what does it mean when it falls below 1?

The number is used to estimate how many people will be infected by someone with Covid-19

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A number that tracks the spread of Covid-19 fell in the UAE, confirming what new case numbers have shown for days – the pandemic is now on the decline in the Emirates.

Scientists use the R0, or reproduction number, to track the infectiousness of a disease.

Studies have shown the natural R0 rate of the coronavirus is about 2.2. This means each person with the virus goes on to infect about two other people and those two infect another two each, in the absence of any controls to limit the spread such as face masks and physical distancing.

An R0 rate of 1 means an epidemic is stable – one person infects one other. A disease with a value of less than one will eventually peter out and die because not enough people are passing the infection on.

The latest figure for Covid-19 rate reflects the efficiency of the health sector and its ability to break the chain of transmission

Countries are striving to keep the R0 below one because once it goes higher, the epidemic begins to grow exponentially again.

The R0 in the UAE is now 0.74, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority said.

"The basic rate of reproduction of the virus reflects how quickly the virus spreads," the authority tweeted.

“The latest figure for Covid-19 rate in the UAE [has reached] 0.74, less than 1, which reflects the efficiency of the health sector and its ability to reduce the rate of infection and the ability to break the chain of transmission, in addition to the efficiency of the policies and measures taken.”

Scientists agree the accuracy of the figure improves the more tests are carried out in a country and the UAE conducted more than 4.8 million tests since the outbreak.

In recent weeks the UAE has been able to shut many of the temporary field hospitals it set up to respond to the outbreak.

In mid-July, the field hospital at Dubai Parks and Resorts discharged its final coronavirus patients, the second such centre in the emirate to do so.

Abu Dhabi has also closed several of its temporary medical centres, including the field hospital at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre it set up to cope with a surge in cases.

This month, the capital announced that all private hospitals in Abu Dhabi were also clear of Covid-19 cases.

Governments around the world use the R0 as a measure of when to tighten or impose additional restrictions.

However, experts say it is difficult to measure and is not recorded the same way universally.

Countries such as France have recorded an increase in the R0 rate, where it was said to be 1.2 last week.

Once the number begins to climb, it increases quickly.

On July 10, the R0 was calculated to be 0.92 in Brittany, France, but jumped to 2.6 in only a matter of days.

The R0 is on the increase elsewhere in Europe, including Spain.

At present, the R0 in the England is under 1 but last week scientists warned it could be increasing again. It was already almost at or above 1 in some parts of the country, including the South West, East Anglia and the North West.