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The UK’s R number, a measure of whether the epidemic is growing or shrinking, is at or below one for the first time since early December.

The government’s scientific advisors have estimated the virus is reproducing at a rate of between 0.8 and 1.

Anything below one means infections are in retreat.

Meanwhile Office for National Statistics figures suggest cases are decreasing slightly or levelling off across Britain.

In Northern Ireland, however, cases have continued to rise and the new, more infectious strain has overtaken the older variant of the virus as of the start

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