Scientists said the figure in England fell from a recent high of 1.56 and is therefore “heading in the right direction”.
If the R value is above one then the Covid-19 epidemic continues to grow, but if it is below one it shows the outbreak is in retreat.
But while it remains more than one, it means every person infected with Covid-19 is giving the virus to more than one other – resulting in growing numbers of infections.
It is believed that in some areas, the R may already have crept below one, but the public is being urged to continue abiding with the lockdown which remain until December 2.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), warned that deaths and increased demand for healthcare will carry on unless the R drops below one for an extended period of time.
Sage said the number of new infections is growing by between one per cent and three per cent every day.
And a spokesman warned: “Sage is confident that the epidemic has continued to grow in England over recent weeks.
“Although there is some evidence the rate of growth in some parts of the country may be slowing, levels of disease are very high in these areas.
“Significant levels of healthcare demand and mortality will persist until R is reduced to and remains well below one for an extended period of time.”
Yesterday’s daily figures showed that a further 376 people died of Covid-19 during the previous 24 hours, down from 563 a day earlier.
This brings the official UK total death toll to 51,304.
The number of daily new infections was 27,301 – down on Thursday’s spike of 33,470.
Some officials have suggested that figure – the highest to date – was as a result of people going out and socialising just before the current lockdown began on November 5.
However NHS medical director Stephen Powis played down the impact of the rise at a Downing Street press conference.
He said that it was “important to look at the number of cases reported over a number of days and not take one day in isolation”.