WORRYING research suggests Southend's coronavirus R-Value is the highest in Essex and is now sitting at 0.84. 

The Government is trying to keep the crucial reproduction rate, which is the number of people an infected person will pass it on to, below one.

If it is greater than one, the epidemic will grow exponentially and residents face a second wave of the virus.

If it is kept below one, the epidemic will ultimately disappear.

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But even more worryingly, the data - presented on crowd-sharing research platform Deckzero - shows the value in Southend shot up to 0.99 on Sunday, days after the town's beaches were flooded with people - despite apparent attempts to continue practising social distancing. 

The number is fluctuating depending on the number of new cases confirmed each day.

The good news, however, is that number has fallen dramatically over the last month, and now sits at between two and three per day.

That is compared to what appears to be the local peak in late March and early April, when the number of new recorded cases topped out.

At that time, the R-Value was as high as 3. 

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In the Essex County Council authority area, which includes Basildon, Castle Point and Rochford, the spread rate, or R Number, was averaging at 0.78 on Tuesday.

Posting the findings to crowd-sharing research platform Deckzero, the researchers said: “This approximated value is not the instantaneous reproduction number.

“However, it does bear the same unit and trending as [the instantaneous reproduction number] and thus may offer a glimpse into how might have changed during the last 14-day period.

“When cases are small, R will fluctuate more; this should not be treated as noise as the infection grows exponentially is undisrupted.”

However, Councillor Trevor Harp, who oversees health in the borough, has cast doubt over the research. 

He said: “We haven’t got official figures from Public Health England for Southend yet but we have been under the impression that we are around average for Essex.

“The R-number is to do with the regeneration of the infection, how quickly it is infecting other people.

“I would be very surprised if this research is accurate to say it was 0.99 for this Sunday as most data on this lags behind by around a fortnight, it is possible we had an increase on the VE-day weekend.

“You have to keep in mind that this virus has an incubation period of anything from five to ten days.

"It can take that long for someone to show symptoms and then they have to have a test which can take up to 48 hours to report back so I would not expect if someone was exposed during the weekend for those figures to be available Friday morning.

“It is unlikely I would have thought.”

As countries think about how to lift lockdown, the aim will be to keep the reproduction number below one.

The Government has announced plans to deal with flare-ups of the virus in parts of England in the coming months.

This could mean schools or workplaces in some areas of the country are shut down if they have an outbreak.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the idea was part of the test, track and trace system designed to prevent a second wave.

On May 15 it was reported that the infection rate in the UK had gone up and was approaching rapid growth, according to Government scientific advice.

The so-called R-number was reported to be between 0.7 and 1.0 nationally.