28th February 2021 data update

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

The big news this week is obviously the release of the government’s “roadmap out of the current lockdown for England” (read in full via the link). This sets out steps starting on 8th March (“all children and students return safely to face-to-face education in schools and colleges” and “People will be allowed to leave home for recreation and exercise outdoors with their household or support bubble, if they are eligible for one, or with one person from outside their household. Care home residents will also be allowed one regular visitor.”)

Further changes are pencilled in for 29th March, 12th April, 17th May and 21st June – though please note that these are described as “indicative and subject to change. There will be a minimum of five weeks between each step”:

“Only when the government is sure that it is safe to move from one step to the next will the final decision be made. The decision will be based on four tests:

  • the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
  • evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
  • infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
  • our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern”

You can read the Independent SAGE response (“Maximum suppression or mere containment”) on their website.

Key data:

  • Data from the NHS on vaccinations shows that, 37% of the Gloucestershire population aged 16+ has had a first dose, 0.7% have had a second dose. (compared to 33% for a first dose and 1.1% for a second dose across England). Locally, this includes between 80-100% of all age groups above 65.
  • 62 people from Stroud district tested positive in the most recent week – to 24th February. The KCL/Zoe app data suggests 147 active infections. Both sources of data show clearly declining trends.
  • Across Gloucestershire, 248 people tested positive in the week to the 24th Feb (down from 352 in the previous week) – and there is a clearly falling trend.
  • The number of Covid-19 patients in Gloucestershire hospitals is rapidly falling across General and Acute and Community beds – peaking at 262 on the 6th January and below a quarter of that – 56 patients on the 23rd February (the most recent date data is available), down 17 from the week before. In the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which runs Gloucester Royal and Cheltenham General hospitals, the proportion of beds occupied by confirmed Covid-19 patients is down to the lowest level since 17th November (the earliest day for which we have data): 7%.
  • In Gloucestershire, the most recent data – up to the 5th January – shows that 1,119 people have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate. 185 of these people were from the Stroud district. We send our condolences to all affected.
  • Further detail and charts on the above and more are below:

People who have tested positive

Across Gloucestershire, 248 people tested positive in the week to 24th February, compared to 352 in the previous week. Not all tests will have been processed yet (only 304 of the 352 positive tests for last week had been reported by last Sunday), but there is a very clear downward trend – now down to the levels at the end of September. You can view daily numbers for Gloucestershire on the government’s dashboard. Across Gloucestershire, a total of 21,606 people have now tested positive.

Source: data.gov download – data and chart by Claire Biggs

Looking at Stroud district specifically, 62 people tested positive in the most recent week – to 24th February – down from 88 in the previous week (though as above, not all test results will have been processed so the number will likely end up higher for the week, the 88 for the previous week was 78 at time of reporting last Sunday). Numbers of infections continue to fall. The number of people who have tested positive is in the most recent week is still higher than before October, but the district is on track to return to the low levels of September, August, July and June. Across Stroud district, 3,567 people have now tested positive.

Source: gov.uk dashboard – data download

If we look at the age breakdown, it’s clear that positive tests have fallen rapidly among those aged under 60 recently – following a similar sharp decline for those aged 60 and over. There have been some new cases among people aged over 60 recently – which we believe are associated with a care home outbreak which is now under control in Minchinhampton/Amberley – covered in the Stroud News and Journal.

Source: gov.uk dashboard

Looking at smaller areas, the government’s map shows much of the district – and surrounding areas – with fewer than 2 positive tests in the week to 23rd February (this data is “suppressed” to protext the privacy of individuals when only small numbers of people test positive – but could mean no-one has tested positive. See below for trends by areas of the district (“MSOAs” – “Middle Layer Super Output Areas – a statistical geography)

Source: govt interactive map

Below are the charts for trends – you can see how cases are falling in most of the district – up to the 13th February. At that point, cases remained higher/flat rather than low/falling only in Stroud Town, Stonehouse and Ebley & Randwick.

Source: gov.uk data download – MSOA API

You can enter your postcode into the government’s dashboard to see this data as a map.

Finally on the number of people with the virus. We know that not everyone can get a test or gets one even if they can. The Kings College London/Zoe Covid-19 symptom study app reports estimates for Stroud district – based on reporting of symptoms by people using the app (of whom there are over 3,000 in Stroud district). Their latest estimate is 147 active cases for the district – down 111 from last week by their measure. Last week there was some indication of a recent rise, butI’m glad I said “I’d caution not reading too much into this yet”, because it now appears to have been a blip and active infections are falling again – although not much below the recent low. These numbers are consistent with the confirmed case numbers, which provides evidence that the trend is real. Nonetheless, please continue to take care, keep following the guidance, and do what you can to reduce contacts and support people who need to isolate – we still want to get the infections lower than they are now.

Source: Covid 19 Symptom Study app

Vaccinations

Data from the NHS on vaccinations shows that, in total and as of the 18th February (the most recent available data) there have been 172,007 Covid-19 vaccine doses delivered in Gloucestershire: 168,623 131,362 first doses (37,261 in the past week, compared to 31,362 in the previous week), and 3,384 3,178 2,923 (206 in the past week compared to 255 in the previous week) second doses. Based on the 2019 population estimate for the area, these have covered approximately:

  • 37% of the Gloucestershire population aged 16+ has had a first dose, 0.7% have had a second dose. (compared to 33% for a first dose and 1.1% for a second dose across England)
  • 99.4% of Gloucestershire residents aged 80+ with first dose, 3.8% second
  • “102.5”% aged 75-79 (more people have received vaccines from this age group than were estimated to be in the population – in reality the figure is probably below 100%, but very close), 0.2% second dose
  • 95.6% aged 70-74, 0.2% second dose
  • 82.3% aged 65-69 have had a first dose (compared to 75% nationally)

People aged 60 and over in Gloucestershire can now book to be vaccinated at one of the mass vaccination sites via this link. Or they can wait to receive contact from their GP to be vaccinated at their more local hub – surgeries have largely completed group 6 (people aged 18-65 in an at risk group), and will also move onto group 7 (people aged 60+) soon.

Vaccination will then continue to proceed in age groups, which is “the fastest way to cut Covid-19 deaths in the next phase of the rollout, say experts advising the UK government” [the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation].

There continue to be regular updates about vaccination locally (see the Facebook group topic) in our Facebook group. If you’ve had your jab recently, please do read advice on continuing to be cautious after receiving your vaccination)

UK data suggests everyone in the first Phase priority groups (including everyone aged 50+) will be offered a first dose by the end of March.

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 progress, and posts about the Covid-19 vaccines more generally, the latter including attempts to tackle misinformation.

Hospitals – local, national

The good news is that the number of Covid-19 patients in Gloucestershire hospitals is rapidly falling across General and Acute and Community beds – peaking at 262 on the 6th January and below a fifth of that – 56 patients on the 23rd February (the most recent date data is available), down 17 from the week before. Sadly, some of this decline will be due to people in hospital dying – but it is good news that more people are not being admitted. There’s still a way to go – and the rate of decline is clearly falling. We wish everyone in hospital with Covid-19 and their loved ones well.

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 down to the lowest level since 17th November (the earliest day for which we have data): 7% on 23rd February – half the proportion on 4th February, and a quarter the peak of 29% on 20th January. The trend is really encouraging – but note how there is very little spare capacity in the hospitals (just 2% according to the data). This is likely because of normal winter pressures, the backlog and staffing issues created due to the pandemic, and the need to create Covid-19 wards and distance beds. It underlines how little room for new Covid-19 admissions there is.

Source: NHS hospital activity

Nationally, the number of Covid-19 patients being admitted to hospital has been falling – 1,112 people were admitted on the 23rd February – the lowest number this year (compared to 1,397 last week). This number is now below a quarter of peak daily number for this ‘wave’ (4,576 Covid-19 patients were admitted on the 12th January), below the first ‘wave’ peak (3,150 on the 7th April), and below the level of the mid-November peak (1,782 patients on 18th November).

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 hospitals remains high – though falling sharply. In Northern Ireland and Wales it is still above the level of the first wave peak.

Source: Independent SAGE briefing

The number of Covid-19 patients in mechanical ventilation beds – some of the sickest patients is also now lower than in the Spring 2020 peak – having peaked at 4,077 patients (on 24th January). There are still 1,971 patients (down from 2,469 patients last week) in these beds, compared to 3,247 on the 18th April at the height of the spring 2020 peak. We send our best for their recovery.

Source: gov.uk data dashboard

Across the UK, the KCL/ZOE app team estimate around 146,700 people had a symptomtic infection on the 28th February, based on symptom reporting by up to 4.6 million app users. This compares to 212,400 last week and a peak of 806,000 on the 12th January.

Source: KCL/ZOE

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) has continued to decrease in the week ending 19 February 2021; we estimate that 373,700 people within the community population in England had COVID-19 (95% credible interval: 346,400 to 401,300), equating to around 1 in 145 people.” (last week: “In England, the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) decreased in the week ending 12 February 2021; we estimate that 481,300 people within the community population in England had COVID-19, equating to around 1 in 115 people.”

People who have died with Covid-19

In Gloucestershire, the most recent data – up to the 12th February – shows that 1,119 people have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate (22 people who have died have been added since last week). 185 of these people were from the Stroud district (7 added since last week). We send our condolences to all affected.

The data is from registrations of death up to the 12th February, and sadly we know it will continue to rise. However, data on deaths by another measure suggests that numbers have fallen rapidly recently – perhaps due to the impact of vaccinations. Barring dramatic mutations/failures of policy, we should never see the numbers we have seen recently again.

Source: gov.uk dashboard for Gloucestershire deaths
Source: gov.uk dashboard for Gloucestershire deaths

While the numbers of people dying are falling, it’s striking how many more people have died recently than even in the first wave. 46,371 people in the last few weeks, compared to 32,119 in the first peak.

Source: Independent SAGE briefing

The above data is the best we get on people who have died – from the Office for National Statistics, who report based on what clinicians determine the cause of death to be for death certificates. This data takes time to come in – so the below is only up to the 12th February. It is sobering reading – but the number of deaths is lower than for the previous week and as for Gloucestershire, we should be past the worst:

  • “The number of deaths registered in the UK in the week ending 12 February 2021 was 17,136, which was 3,617 higher than the five-year average; of deaths registered in the UK in Week 6, 6,113 deaths involved COVID-19, that is, 1,710 lower than in Week 5.”
  • The number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 12 February 2021 (Week 6) was 15,354; this was 1,838 fewer deaths than in the previous week (Week 5).”
  • “In Week 6, the number of deaths registered in England and Wales was 28.8% above the five-year average (3,429 deaths higher).”
  • “Of the deaths registered in Week 6 in England and Wales, 5,691 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”; a decrease of 1,629 deaths compared with Week 5. In Week 6, deaths involving COVID-19 accounted for 37.1% of all deaths in England and Wales.
  • “Of the 5,691 deaths involving COVID-19 in Week 6 in England and Wales, 5,035 had this recorded as the underlying cause of death (88.5%).
  • “Using the most up-to-date data we have available, the number of deaths from week ending 13 March 2020 up to 12 February 2021 was 602,313. Of the deaths registered by 12 February 2021, 124,978 mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate. This is 20.7% of all deaths in England and Wales. During this period the number of excess deaths above the five-year average was 117,040 deaths.
  • The chart below shows how Covid-19 deaths contribute to the number of deaths being way above the 5-year average during times where the virus has been able to infect large numbers of people.

Our previous update discusses the death rate in Stroud district compared to the rest of the country.

For more on the national situation I – as ever – highly recommend the Independent SAGE weekly briefing (1 hr 20 minutes). This week has a data presentation from Professor Christina Pagel that includes a section on inequality that explains well how Covid-19 has affected different populations (see one chart below), as well as a presentation from Susan Michie on the Independent SAGE’s reactions to the government’s new “roadmap” and their own recommendations for “Zero Covid” (see their document “Maximum suppression or mere containment”)

The chart below shows that the population of England and Wales is divided equally through the “Index of Multiple Deprivation”. However, people testing positive are more likely to be from the most deprived areas (and more deprived areas generally), and this is even starker for ICU admissions – whicah are much more likely to be of people from the most deprived areas.

Source: Independent SAGE briefing

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 – but there is a sign that the number of people dying may be starting to fall, with Our World in Data reporting the number of people to be reported as dying per day (on a 7-day average basis) has been falling dramatically since January 26th (14,402), though this seems to have stalled at just over 9,000 people/day (9,224 on February 26th). This is tragically still very high – considerably higher than during Spring 2020 – and there is a long way to go.

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 5th worst affected of all countries), at 1,810 people per million – behind only Czechia (1,885 per million), Slovenia (1,845 per million), Belgium (1,902 per million) and San Marino (2,180 per million – though obviously a country with a much smaller population than the others).

Several countries have much lower death rates, including Estonia (440 per million), Denmark (403 per million), Turkey (338 per million), Finland (134 per million), Norway (115 per million), Bangladesh (51 per million), Australia (36 per million), South Korea (31 per million), Cuba (28 per million), New Zealand (5 people per million), Singapore, China, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Bhutan and Eritrea (all below 5 people per million), and Mongolia, Vietnam, Tanzania, Taiwan and Burundi (all reporting under 1 person per million).

The United Kingdom is doing much better in terms of Covid-19 vaccine doses per 100 people (30) – behind only a few other countries like Israel (92) and United Arab Emirates (60). Globally, the rate is 3 doses per 100 people. There is a real need to plan to improve global vaccination. You can Donate to treat, vaccinate and support people worldwide – which a few members of our Facebook group have reported doing to celebrate getting their own vaccination.

Notes

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.

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.