INFECTIONS rates of coronavirus are set to be used at town level on Teesside to help health chiefs fight flare-ups of the illness. 

The “R rate” has been used at a regional level to gauge the spread of Covid-19 – with the North-East and Yorkshire’s figure standing between 0.7 and 0.9 to date. 

A rate above one shows the spread of the disease is rising – with one person with Covid, on average, infecting more than one other person with the illness.

But Teesside health leaders have warned its complexities mean it has been very difficult to calculate it accurately at lower levels. 

Now a South Tees public health report shows moves are afoot to calculate more local versions of the R number – offering a picture of infection rates for council areas.

The paper presented to the Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governing body stated the R number was “fiendishly difficult to calculate” as it used many data sets over different time periods – and could “oversimplify” a complicated picture. 

The report stated: “Until recently it was considered that calculation of the R number at anything below regional level was unlikely to add to our understanding and potentially have broad confidence intervals.

“However, recent discussions have opened the potential for calculating more local versions of the R number.”

After the CCG meeting, Dr Boleslaw Posmyk said panellists had discussed how the outbreak had started slightly earlier in Middlesbrough – giving more time for the peak to “build”. 

The governing body chairman explained more “granular” information on testing levels would allow public health teams to roll out more tests in neighbourhoods where testing was lower to uncover Covid-levels in more detail.

Dr Posmyk added: “Track and trace is the ultimate in the localised R number in that you’re tracking and tracing contacts.

“That will facilitate concentrating interventions on areas where the infection may be about to rise – and what you want to do to minimise the impact on the health of the population and the number of individual people affected."

Talks on more focussed “R numbers” come as more responsibility is passed to councils to deal with any future outbreaks of Covid.

Authorities are expected to reveal their plans to combat flare ups of the disease this week – with procedures for schools, care homes, businesses and streets expected.

New case numbers are falling in all boroughs.

But calls for more detailed and up-to-date data on cases of coronavirus have been made in recent weeks to help councils ensure any “local lockdowns” are rolled out in the right place at the right time. 

Councils have had readily available access to “pillar one” hospital test data – but “pillar two” data, from privately run mobile testing centres and community swab testing, has taken longer to filter through. 

Middlesbrough Council is set to reveal its outbreak plan this week.