31st January 2021 data update

Team members James Beecher and Claire Biggs summarise local data on the pandemic and put it in national and international context

Before this week’s data summary, a roundup of the best posts from our Facebook group this week. We’ve been organising posts by topic, see the topic link after each individual for more:

Key data:

  • The UK passed 100,000 deaths due to Covid-19. By the government’s official measure of deaths within 28 days of a positive test, 106,158 people have died (as of the 31st January). According to the UK’s statistics agencies however, 107,907 people had died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate as of the 15th January, and by this measure the total number is probably over 120,000 by now.
  • Our condolences particularly to the families and friends of the 942 people from Gloucestershire have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate, including 163 people from Stroud district. 71 people from Gloucestershire died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the week to the 15th January – the 4th highest weekly number (after 127 people died in the week to 17th April, 125 to the 24th April, and 96 to the 1st May). This includes 14 people from Stroud district – again, this is the highest number of people to die in a week with Covid other than in the spring 2020 peak.
  • The good news is that the number of Covid-19 patients in Gloucestershire hospitals looks to be on a clearly falling trend across the General and Acute and Community beds – peaking at 262 on the 6th January and down to 210 on the 26th January (the most recent date)… but there’s still a long way to go (the number of Covid-19 patients is still more than double the number from early November when the second national lockdown was introduced)
  • In Stroud district, 153 people tested positive in the 7 days to the 29th January. Frustratingly, this no longer represents a falling trend – being exactly the same as the number I reported to the 22nd January last week.
  • In Gloucestershire as a whole, 875 people tested positive in the week to the 29th January compared to 1,277 in the week to the 22nd January, and 2,258 in the 7 days to 1st January. Again, while not all data is in yet – it looks like a dramatic fall from the peak – although numbers are still high.
  • There have been another 16,777 first vaccine doses given in Gloucestershire this week, and 37 second doses. Over 90% of the population aged 80 or over have received at least one dose, and around 9% of the population aged under 80.

People who have died with Covid-19

I’m starting with the bad news this week – and it is very bad. But please read on after this section for more encouraging data trends. The UK has reached a grim milestone of over 100,000 deaths. We knew this milestone would come, but it is no less difficult to process because of this.

SCCR is about sharing quality information and guidance, and supporting each other in our local communities in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week we shared a resource on “Coping with death and grief during Covid-19” from the British Psychological Society, which includes details of a number of national organisations offering support. Our public Facebook group is not an ideal place to provide emotional support, but we also hope this group can be a space where people can express themselves and find a sense of a connection and community at a time when the virus and the measures to reduce its spread risk creating isolation and loneliness – as well as other negative impacts on emotional and mental wellbeing.

The Office for National Statistics reports that, in England and Wales:

  • “The number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 15 January 2021 (Week 2) was 18,042, 291 more deaths than in the previous week (Week 1); this is the fourth-highest number of weekly deaths recorded during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”
  • “In Week 2, the number of deaths registered was 30.5% above the five-year average (4,220 deaths higher).”
  • “Of the deaths registered in Week 2, 7,245 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, the third-highest weekly number recorded during the pandemic and an increase of 1,188 deaths compared with Week 1.”
  • “In Week 2, deaths involving COVID-19 accounted for 40.2% of all deaths in England and Wales; this is the highest proportion of deaths involving COVID-19 that has been recorded during the pandemic. Of the 7,245 deaths involving COVID-19, 6,510 had this recorded as the underlying cause of death (89.9%).”
  • The chart below shows how Covid-19 deaths contribute to the number of deaths being way above the 5-year average during times when the virus is allowed to infect large numbers of people.
Source: ONS

In terms of the death rate – the number of people who have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate compared to the population, Stroud district has seen 136 people die for every 100,000 people living in the area – the same as the rate across England as a whole. This equates to one in every 736 people.

This is higher than the rate for the Forest of Dean (107), the City of Bristol (92) and Bath and North East Somerset (77). However, it is a lower rate than that for nearby Gloucester (163 per 100,000) and Cheltenham (177 – one in every 565 people), and considerably lower than for the worst affected areas, some of which are not that far away – like Swansea at 208 people per 100,000, and Rhondda Cynon Taf at 315 people per 100,000 (or one in every 317 people).

Vaccinations

Data from the NHS on vaccinations shows that:

  • In total, there have been 80,740 Covid-19 vaccine doses delivered in Gloucestershire: 77,817 first doses (15,677 in the past week), and 2,923 (37 in the past week) second doses.
  • Using the 2019 ONS projected population estimates, I calculate 91.1% of people aged 80 and over in Gloucestershire have received at least one vaccine dose (and 3.6% of people aged 80 or over have had two doses). Across the UK as a whole, 79.7% of people aged 80+ have had one dose, and 11.6% two doses.
  • For people aged under 80, 9% in Gloucestershire have received a dose, and 0.3% have received two doses. This compared to 4.4% and 0.2% of under 80 year olds, across England (these will be care home workers, NHS and social care workers, people aged over 70 and clinically vulnerable people).

SCCR Team Member Rachel Sleigh has been posting about progress with vaccinations locally. Vaccinations are being managed by three “Primary Care Networks” that cover the GP surgeries in the Stroud district (you can find out which PCN your surgery is associated with via the link above):

  • This week Severn Health Primary Care Network (PCN) have sent invites by text to all Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) patients over the age of 18 and all people aged 71 and above. They hope to receive enough vaccine for 70 year olds in the following two weeks.
  • Berkeley Vale and Stroud Cotswold PCNs are at roughly the same point, contacting CEV. Currently the vaccine is not able to be given to CEV under the age of 18.
  • Karen Pitney from Rowcroft surgery posted to let us know that the surgery has “completed the vaccination of our Care Home patients and the staff who work in these homes”, “completed the vaccination of our patients aged over 80”, is “nearing the completion of our patients aged over 75”, and “are in the process of calling our patients aged between 70 and 74. We will continue to contact you, in age order, until we have spoken to you all. We will be calling you over the next two weeks with a view to having all of you vaccinated by the middle of February”. CEV patients who “have not already been vaccinated in your age group will be receiving either a text, or if you do not have access to this, telephones calls from Monday of next week”.
  • All health and social care workers should be offered the vaccine by mid-February 2021. Priority will be based on regular close contact with individuals who have either confirmed or suspected COVID-19, as well as staff who work with those at higher risk of being infected or becoming seriously ill if they do. Social care workers MUST have a ‘Letter of Eligibility’. See Rachel’s post on social care workers, and Gloucestershire County Council’s “Step-by-step process for social care employers” for more information.
  • NHS Gloucestershire have launched a website where you can “Find the information you need about the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Gloucestershire in one place.Visit the site for the latest updates, info on priority groups, FAQs and more”.
  • Gloucestershire County Council have a hub for information on vaccines, including “a new online form for vaccination queries from the public and stakeholders“.

Please continue to ask us questions/raise concerns in our Facebook group and we will signpost to the best information we are aware of and/or pass on concerns as and when appropriate. We have separated out tagging of posts in the Facebook group into posts about local vaccination, and posts about the Covid-19 vaccines more generally.

Hospitals – local, regional, national

The good news is that the number of Covid-19 patients in Gloucestershire hospitals looks to be on a clearly falling trend across the General and Acute and Community beds – peaking at 262 on the 6th January and down to 210 on the 26th January (the most recent date). This is great news but, as you can see from the chart below, there’s still a long way to go. The number of Covid-19 patients is only down to the level it was in mid-December, and is still more than double the number from early November when the second national lockdown was introduced.

Source: NHS hospital activity

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), there is good news – the proportion of beds occupied by confirmed Covid-19 patients is falling – down from a peak of 29% on , to 23% on the 26th January. There’s still some way to go to get to even the recent low of 13% on 21st November, but this is the first time we’ve seen a consistent drop for months – and there seems to already be a positive impact on the number of unoccupied beds.

Source: NHS hospital activity

Nationally, the number of Covid-19 patients being admitted to hospital has been falling – at 3,039 people were admitted on the 27th January – the lowest number this year – though still a higher number than at any point other than the worst days of the spring 2020 peak. It’s a good sign that lockdown measures are working, but there’s a long way to go yet.

Source: gov.uk data dashboard

Because people with Covid-19 tend to stay in hospital for some time, the total number of people with the virus in hospital has only just begun to fall. At 34,783 it is still over double the spring 2020 peak of 21,684 on the 12th April. Again – it’s a good sign that the number is falling, but there is a long way to go – and NHS workers in many parts of the country are still under enormous pressure.

The number of Covid-19 patients in mechanical ventilation beds – some of the sickest patients is also higher than in the Spring 2020 peak – but again, thankfully, it appears to have peaked (at 4,077 patients). There are still 3,832 patients in these beds, compared to 3,247 on the 18th April. We send our best for their recovery.

Positive test results / estimates of numbers of people with the virus

In Stroud district, 153 people tested positive in the 7 days to the 29th January. Frustratingly, this no longer represents a falling trend – being exactly the same as the number I reported to the 22nd January last week (though a further 11 positive test results have been confirmed for specimens submitted that week since… this could also happen over the next week for the most recent week). The number is pretty much the same as the number of people who tested positive in the week to the 30th October (the week before the second national lockdown was introduced), so we still have a long way to go.

You can enter your postcode into the government’s dashboard for more data – including at a more local level.

Source: gov.uk dashboard – data download

Looking at daily rate of people testing positive per 100,000 people above and below 60 years of age, it appears that infection numbers may still be falling for people aged under 60, but there is more of a problem for people aged over 60. It would be really frustrating if people aged over 60 continue to catch the virus just before vaccination of those over 70 is underway, and with vaccination set to extend to other groups.

Source: gov.uk dashboard

We sometimes get asked about the number of people being tested – and this has fallen in the Stroud district over the past 7 days from 4,368 people in the week to the 8th January, to 3,654 in the week to the 26th January.

The proportion of tests that return positive results is a good indicator of how prevalent the virus is. This has been falling recently – to 4.5% for the specimens submitted on 26th January. While the fall is a good sign, the proportion is till higher than it was from August until the 28th October (just before the second national lockdown was introduced).

In Stroud district, the two recent peaks were for the seven days to the 1st January (when 9.4% of people tested positive), and the seven days to the 10th November (when 7.9% of people tested positive). In August and September, when the virus was not circulating following the Spring 2020 lockdown restrictions and other restrictions suppressing it, under 1% of people tested were positive – with the lowest rate being in the week to the 6th August when 0.2% of people tested were positive. As well as helping us understnd how prevalent the virus is at different times, and how effective sustained suppression can be, this shows how rare “false positives” are.

Source: gov.uk data download

In Gloucestershire as a whole, 875 people tested positive in the week to the 29th January compared to 1,277 in the week to the 22nd January, and 2,258 in the 7 days to 1st January. Again, while not all data is in yet – it looks like a dramatic fall from the peak. However, the weekly number of people testing positive number is still higher than for most weeks other than the peaks in the past month and in mid November – there is no cause for complacency!) You can view daily numbers for Gloucestershire on the government’s dashboard.

Source: data.gov download

Across the UK the number of people testing positive each day is falling sharply – but is still very high. The peak date of positive submitted specimins was 4th January with 76,089 people submitting a sample that tested positive. On the 28th January – the most date likely to be fully processed, 22,860 people testing positive. This is still much higher than the since before mid-December, so please continue to take care.

Across the UK, the KCL/ZOE app team estimate around 457,000 people had a symptomtic infection on the 23rd January, based on symptom reporting by up to 4 million app users. This compares to a peak of 806,000 on the 12th January, and down from 583,000 last week.

The Office for National Statistics have a higher estimate based on their random sample testing of tens of thousands of people – but is data from longer ago: “In England, the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) remains high in the week ending 23 January 2021; we estimate that 1,018,700 people (95% credible interval: 976,200 to 1,061,600) within the community population in England had COVID-19, equating to around 1 in 55 people (95% credible interval: 1 in 55 to 1 in 50).”

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.

For more on the national situation I – as ever – highly recommend the Independent SAGE weekly briefing (1 hr 20 minutes). This week has an excellent data presentation from Professor Christina Pagel – digging into concerning details beneath the good news of the national charts covered above, followed by a focus on “Long Covid” – with experts in treatment and people experiencing symptoms in discussion.

For a shorter summary, see Professor Tim Spector from the Kings College London/ZOE Covid-19 app team (5 minutes)

International context

Globally, over 2 million people have now died with their death attributed to Covid-19 at least in part (subject to different counting methods in different countries). The situation remains concerning – deaths continue to rise, with Our World in Data reporting the highest number of people to be reported as dying per day (on a 7-day average basis) as reaching a new high of 14,299 on January 26th. There is a small indication that the number of people dying on a daily basis is hitting a peak (see their chart on daily confirmed deaths).

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 4th worst affected of all countries), at 1,558 people per million – behind only Slovenia (1,679 per million), Belgium (1,818 per million) and San Marion (1,915 per million – though obviously a country with a much smaller population than the others).

Several countries have much lower death rates, including Finland (116 per million), Norway (104 per million), Bangladesh (49 per million), Australia (36 per million), South Korea (28 per million), Cuba (19 per million), New Zealand (5 people per million), and Mongolia, Vietnam, Tanzania, Taiwan and Burundi (all under 1 person per million).

The United Kingdom is doing much better in terms of Covid-19 vaccine doses per 100 people (14) – the second highest in the world behind only Israel (55). Globally, the rate is 1.2 doses per 100 people.

Notes

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.