Since 5th January, Gloucestershire along with the rest of the country is in National Lockdown – guidance here. Thanks to Sharon Bishop for sharing an Easy Read version of the national lockdown guidance to our Facebook group. The key points laid out in the easy read version are:
- “Coronavirus is spreading very quickly. Lots of people are poorly.
- We are being asked to ‘stay at home’ as much as possible. The government call this ‘lockdown’.
- Most places are now closed until the end of February 2021
- ‘Essential services’ will stay open like the NHS, supermarkets and pharmacies.
- Staying at home can help keep ourselves and other people safe”
The first part of the guidance itself reads:
“You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:
- shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
- go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
- exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
- meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
- seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
- attend education or childcare – for those eligible
If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local – unless it is necessary to go further, for example to go to work. Stay local means stay in the village, town, or part of the city where you live.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. You should not attend work”
There are a number of exemptions and much more detail – and we’ve been addressing questions about the guidance in our facebook group, we welcome further questions and will do our best to signpost to the appropriate sections – though please bear in mind that we are doing this as part of a wider effort to control the spread of the virus, not because we are employed by the government or endorse the detail of their approach – we simply pass on the relevant information.
The number of Covid-19 patients in Gloucestershire hospitals continues to rise, to a high of 256 as of the 5th January (compared to 241 on the 30th December a week ago, and over 100 more than the 151 a month ago). The number has doubed since 13th November (127). And I sadly can’t see a sign of the rate slowing down, particularly not given the latest infection numbers (see below).
In terms of the proportion of beds occupied by Covid-19 patients, in the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which runs Gloucester Royal and Cheltenham General hospitals (the blue bars only in the chart above), this has risen to a new peak of 26.5% as of the 5th January. This is approaching double the recent low of 14.9% on 4th December (double would be 29.9%).
For an insight into what it’s like on the Covid wards locally, please see the below film from Points West – filmed by staff in the wards so no visits were necessary, and with videocall interviews by Steve Knibbs.
In terms of positive test results, many of which we may reasonably expect to lead to further hospital admissions in weeks to come, these continue to be high in Stroud district and Gloucestershire – though there is some sign that rates are not rising as quickly as they were (this could be an artefact while we wait for tests to be processed):
In Stroud district, 259 people tested positive in the 7 days to the 8th January, compared to 309 in the week to 1st Jan, and 229 in the week to the 25th December.
In Gloucestershire as a whole, 2,096 people tested positive in the week to the 8th January compared to 2,110 in the week to the 1st January. Both weeks are hugely higher than the weeks preceding: 1,291 in the week to 25th December and 1,109 in the week to the 18th December.
In terms of age groups, there is some indication that in Stroud district positive tests are no longer rising among people aged 60 and over, but continue to rise among younger people. While it is a good sign that rates are not rising as fast among those who are more at risk from the virus, the chart suggests it is hard to keep community transmission at high rates among under 60s separated from those aged 60 and over.
It’s worth adding that the Kings College London / ZOE Covid-app estimates suggest active infections are higher – at 769, and continuing to rise (doubling from 385 last week). This equates in the latest data to an estimate that 1 in every 153 people in the district has an active infection. These estimates haven’t quite tracked confirmed cases lately, but throughout the pandemic have tended to be a leading indicator locally and nationally.
In terms of positive tests (as opposed to estimates), in the most recent 7 days relative to population, Stroud is one of the less badly affected areas, with 288 positive tests per 100,000 people (1 in every 347 people), compared to 526 per 100,000 in Gloucester (1 in every 190 people), 599 in Swindon, and rates over 1,000 in parts of London: 1,025 per 100,000 in Southwar and 1,627 in Barking and Dagenham (1 in every 61 people)
Sadly, the number of people from Gloucestershire who have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate continues to rise, 31 people’s deaths were registered in the week to 25th December, bringing the total since September to 199, of the total 781. Due to lags in reporting, these weekly numbers will not reflect the current situation, and due to the lag between testing positive, entering hospital, and dying, they are sadly likely to be exceeded in the weeks to come.
The core advice remains: please book a test if you have one or more symptoms – a new continuous cough, high temperature, or loss of smell/taste (or if you are asked to by contact tracers or others conducting tests). There is a permanent unit at Hempsted Meadow in Gloucester, and mobile units tour Gloucestershire. If you have symptoms (or if you are asked to by contact tracers), self-isolate until you have a negative test. If you are struggling with self-isolating, please get in touch with us or with one of the local support groups. You may be able to receive financial support to self-isolate from Stroud District Council.
Whether or not you have symptoms, please still follow the guidelines to wear masks when appropriate (they will help prevent spread of the virus if you have it but don’t have symptoms yet, or are asymptomatic – meaning you have the virus but without ever getting any symptoms), keep distance from people, and wash your hands regularly. Gloucestershire along with the rest of the country is in National Lockdown – guidance here. If there is a piece of guidance you have a question about, again – please ask in our Facebook group.
In terms of the number of people with the virus, the ONS infection survey resulted in the following estimates:
- “In the most recent week, the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) in England has continued to increase; during the most recent week (27 December 2020 to 2 January 2021), we estimate 1,122,000 people (95% credible interval: 1,070,600 to 1,175,700) within the community population in England had the coronavirus (COVID-19), equating to around 1 in 50 people (95% credible interval: 1 in 50 to 1 in 45).”
- “During the most recent week of the study (27 December 2020 to 2 January 2021), London had the highest proportion testing positive; we estimate that 3.56% of people in London had COVID-19 (95% credible interval: 3.26% to 3.87%), equating to around 1 in 30 people (95% credible interval: 1 in 30 to 1 in 25).”
- “Using the most up-to-date data we have available, the number of deaths up to 25 December 2020 was 604,029, which is 72,900 more than the five-year average. Of the deaths registered by 25 December 2020, 78,467 mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate. This is 13.0% of all deaths in England and Wales.”
- “The number of deaths registered in England and Wales was affected by the Christmas Day Bank Holiday; 11,520 deaths were registered in the week ending 25 December 2020 (Week 52), 1,491 fewer deaths than in Week 51; trends in this week’s release should be interpreted with caution.”
- “In Week 52, the number of deaths registered was 44.8% above the five-year average (3,566 deaths higher) but this increase should be treated with caution; the five-year average was particularly low in Week 52 as the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, all contained two bank holidays, whereas Week 52 of 2020 only contained one bank holiday so would likely have more deaths registered.”
- “Of the deaths registered in Week 52, 2,912 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, accounting for 25.3% of all deaths in England and Wales; in Week 52, deaths involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) decreased compared with Week 51 (by 74 deaths).”
- “Of the 2,912 deaths involving COVID-19, 2,497 had this recorded as the underlying cause of death (85.7%).”
The following slides are from Professor Christina Pagel’s presentation as part of this week’s Independent SAGE briefing – which as ever is highly recommended.
The number of people testing positive for the first time is rising really rapidly, close to doubling each week (735,000, compared to 413,000 and 220,000 in the weeks before).
The new variant in dominant in London at an estimated 80% of cases, but is now rising in prevalence in the South West and neighbouring West Midlands at an estimated 50%+ of cases.
The number of patients in ICU-level beds with Covid-19 is rising extremely rapidly and almost at the levels of the Spring peak in England and Wales, with Scotland and Northern Ireland also seeing rapid rises and NI approaching their Spring peak too.
Due to persistent misinformation about Covid and flu that goes around on social media, it’s worth sharing this graphic from John Burn Murdoch at the Financial Times comparing Covid-19 patients in ICU to flu over recent years. Check out the animated version.
Overall hospital admissions are rising in all regions – with the rise in London particularly concerning (and a worrying sign of what could come in other regions). Hence, Sadiq Khan the Mayor has announced a major incident.
For a look at the situation inside a London hospital, see this BBC report.
There is good progress on vaccines, with over 300,000 people receiving a vaccine in each of the last three weeks but… a long way to go to 2 million doses a week
Last week I shared a chart showing how the number of people from Gloucestershire to have died throughout the pandemic relative to the population relates to death rates in other parts of the country. The chart below does the same for Stroud district. Last week’s data was based on the more robust measure based on mentions of Covid-19 on people’s death certificates, but this data is not available for smaller local authorities. The chart below uses the measure of deaths within 28 days of a postive test. Some of these will be for other reasons, but as this caveat applies across all local authorities it allows us to make comparisons between areas. It shows that at around 108 people to have died per 100,000 (or approximately 1 in every 926 people) compared to the higest local rate in Cheltenham (127 per 100,000 – in in every 787 people), and much lower than the worst rates in Sunderland (204 per 100,000 or one in every 490 people) or Folkestone and Hythe (255 per 100,000 or one in every 392 people).
However, this rate is also considerably above the rate for the nearby Forest of Dean (88 per 100,000 or one in every 1,136 people), and other areas in the South West (Bath and North East Somerset at 48 per 100,000 or one in every 2,083 people).
The above numbers are through the entire pandemic, and do not fully reflect the current situation in terms of where the virus is spreading more considerably (see the above chart on cases in the last 7 days).
For more on the national situation I – as ever – highly recommend the Independent SAGE weekly briefing. This has Professor Christina Pagel’s data presentation (from which some charts above are taken), followed by questions and answers from the exert panel around mental health, schools, nurseries, vaccine rollout and more. Please also see the details below regarding the guidance and some resource.
There have also been a number of government press conferences recently, including around the introduction of the new national lockdown. If you want to catch up, you can click on the following links:
- 4th January (national lockdown announcement from Boris Johnson)
- 5th January – data presentation (embedded below) – with Boris Johnson, Prime Minister – Prof Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer (England) – Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Adviser
- 7th January – vaccines and more, with Boris Johnson, Prime Minister – Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England – Brigadier Phil Prosser, Commander of Military Support to the Vaccine Delivery Programme
Globally, the situation remains concerning – deaths continue to rise, with Our World in Data reporting the highest number of people to be reported as dying to reach a high of 15,512 on December 29th. 1.93 million people have been attributed to have died with Covid-19 involved in some way (subject to different counting methods in different countries) as of the 9th January.
In terms of rates of the number of people to have died per million people, the UK remains one of the worst affected countries (currently the 9th worst affected of all countries), recently passing Peru (1,150 people have died per million), to reach 1,158 per million – behind Italy (1,278 per million) and Belgium (1,720 per million). Several countries have much lower death rates, including Finland (105 per million), Norway (86 per million) and South Korea (21 per million).
These updates are designed to improve understanding of the pandemic and its impacts, with the hope this can help us to reduce those impacts locally. I appreciate they do not involve space to properly convey the full impact of the virus nor the restrictions that are making life difficult for many people.
Please remember we have a list of resources to support your emotional and mental health during this time on our website (and welcome further recommendations). The following numbers may be useful:
- Samaritans: 116 123
- Domestic Violence Hotline: 0808 2000 247
- Mind: 0300 123 3393
- Age UK: 0800 169 6565
- Childline: 0800 1111.
Your suggestions for inclusion of data in these summaries are welcome. Please submit posts to our Facebook group.