ANALYSIS of coronavirus death figures has suggested that an East Lancashire borough has one of the lowest infection rates in the country.

Researchers have created an index using local authority and health board data from over a two-week period to estimate the ‘R Number’ – or rate of infection – for each area in the country.

Their published findings predict that the rate stands at around 0.18 in Blackburn with Darwen, way below the national average of 0.7 to 0.9 – giving it the 12th lowest estimated infection rate in the country.

However the council’s heath boss has warned the figures should be interpreted with caution, stating it is currently too early to predict the R rate on a local authority level.

At present, it is imperative that the R Number is kept below one to curb the virus and reduce the risk of a second peak of infections.

As it stands, there are currently 410 registered cases of the virus across the borough.

Posting the findings to crowd-sharing research platform Deckzero, researchers said: “Here we provide an ‘RZ’ index to reflect the pace at which the daily confirmed cases change over time.

“This index number is calculated from local authority and health board lab-confirmed cases data between two week-long brackets. The RZ index number is not the instantaneous reproduction number and is not based on the government model of estimation the R number.

“However RZ does bear the same scale and trending as the R Number, and therefore may offer a glimpse into how might have changed over the last 14-day period."

Researchers went on to say that when case numbers were small, as was the landscape in Blackburn which currently has 410 confirmed cases, the number is more likely to fluctuate.

However the council’s health boss Dominic Harrison has warned that R rate calculations are not yet robust enough to calculate figures for local authority areas.

He said: “Many of the data streams including the new test, track and isolate data stream are not yet fully up and running.

“There are a number of methodologies for calculating the R rate and the most reasonable reading at north west and Lancashire level suggest we could be between 0.6 and 1.

“We will get the local authority R rate calculation at some point in the future. This will be provided by the national Joint Biosecurity Centre – until we get that and until we have more robust local data I would be very dubious about accepting the calculations in this assessment.

“It is important to understand that the number of confirmed cases in a given area which is used in some calculations is not a number of the actual cases but an artefact of the number of tests done. The more tests – the more cases.”

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 being 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 of coronavirus infections.