Scientists believe Epping Forest and Harlow have almost no chance of becoming a coronavirus hotspot by the middle of March.

With lockdown measures set to be eased on March 8 and then again on March 29, researchers at the Imperial College London’s have predicted the probability of areas becoming Covid-19 hotspots.

The data has been produced by the Medical Research Council Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College, in conjunction with its mathematics department.

It predicts the probability of local authorities recording at least 100 cases per 100,000 people over the coming weeks and becoming a 'hotspot' on its map.

The website predicts a zero per cent chance Epping Forest will become hotspots by the week ending Saturday, March 13 and a one per cent chance Harlow will.

Epping Forest Guardian:

The darker the colour the higher the chance of the area becoming a Covid hotspot. Photo: Imperial College London

Nearby Essex districts Brentwood and Thurrock have 23 per and 25 per cent respective chances to be above 100 cases per 100,000 people by the same date.

The predictions are based on reported cases and weekly reported deaths, combined with mathematical modelling, which results in the probability of an area becoming a hotspot in the following weeks.

The modelling suggests cases are set to stay at safe levels, however the country is set for some lockdown restrictions to be eased which may change this.

From March 8 all schools will open with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed. Recreation in an outdoor public spaces - such as a park - will be allowed between two people, meaning they would be allowed to sit down for a coffee, drink or picnic.

From March 29 outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. It is understood this will include gatherings in private gardens. Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts will reopen and organised adult and children's sport, such as grassroots football, will also return.

The model gives higher chance for the two districts to record case rates above 50 per 100,000 residents by March 13.

Epping Forest is listed as having a 11 per cent chance of hitting that benchmark while Harlow is said to have a 16 per cent chance.

Epping Forest Guardian:

Harlow and Epping Forest have a higher chance of having infection rate of 50 cases per 100,000 people or more by March 13. Photo: Imperial College London

Imperial College states that its projections for hotspots assume no change in interventions and human behaviour has been made since a week before the last observed data. The data was last updated on Wednesday, February 24.

Imperial College also lists a number of limitations to its predictions.

It explains: "Predictions on this page assume no change in current interventions (lockdowns, school closures, and others) in the local area beyond those already taken about a week before the end of observations.

"An increase in cases in an area can be due to an increase in testing. The model currently does not account for this.

"Each area (local authority) is treated independently apart from the overall Rt estimate for its region. Thus the epidemic in a region is neither affected by nor affects any other region. It also does not include importations from other countries.

"The population within an area is considered to be homogeneous - i.e. all individuals are considered equally likely to be affected by the disease progression."

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