Public health officials have revealed the current rate of infection of the coronavirus in Cornwall.

The R value – standing for the rate of reproduction of the virus – has become a key figure for understanding the spread of coronavirus.

And the Government has said that the R value needs to be below 1 as part of its tests for whether to allow further relaxation of lockdown guidelines.

Public health officials said on Thursday that the current R value in Cornwall is 0.7.

Dr Ruth Goldstien, Cornwall Council’s public health consultant, stressed that the R figure was only an estimate and was also based on data which was captured around two weeks ago.

She said: “We are confident that in Cornwall it lies between 0.5 and 0.9.”

The aim is to bring the number as low as possible – if it rises above 1 then the number of people who could be passed the virus climbs considerably and risks a second wave.

For example if the R number was two then every person who has the virus would go on to infect two more people. If you have 100 people with the virus they would infect 200 people, who would go on to infect 400 people.

If the R number is lower the disease will eventually peter out as not enough new people will be infected to sustain it.

With the current rate in Cornwall it means that for every person who has coronavirus they would infect 0.7 people. If you have 100 infected people then they would infect 70 more and the number would continue to drop.

With a R value of 0.7 Cornwall has one of the highest rates in the country at present.

The lowest is in London where the R is estimated to be 0.4 and the highest is in the North East/Yorkshire where it is estimated to be 0.8.

At the peak of the spread in the UK the R number was estimated to be 3.