The next stage of lockdown easing takes place on March 29th. Read the government’s “roadmap” at this link. The key changes are
- “you will be able to meet outdoors either in a group of 6 (from any number of households), or in a group of any size from up to 2 households (each household can include existing support bubbles, if eligible)
- you will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports with any number of people (outdoor sports venues and facilities will be able to reopen)
- childcare and supervised activities will be allowed outdoors for all children
- formally organised parent and child groups will be able to take place outdoors for up to 15 attendees. Children under 5 will not be not counted in this number
From 1 April, if you have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable you will no longer be advised to shield. However, you should continue to take extra precautions to protect yourself. It is important that you continue to keep the number of social interactions that you have low and try to limit the amount of time you spend in settings where you are unable to maintain social distancing. If you are in this group, you will previously have received a letter from the NHS or from your GP telling you this. Contact your local authority or speak to your GP if you have any concerns.”
- Data from the NHS on vaccinations shows that, 58% of the Gloucestershire population aged 16+ has had a first dose and 6% have had a second dose. And across England, 52% of the population aged 16+ have had a first dose and 4% a second dose. Across Stroud district, every part of the district (“MSOA” level as above) has seen enough first doses given to cover 50% or more of the population, and across the district as a whole, 63% of the estimated population aged over 16 has had at least a first dose.
- 26 people from Stroud district tested positive in the most recent week – to 24th March (down from 37 in the previous week). The numbers of people testing positive each week are falling – now back to levels last seen in late September (23 in the week to 23rd Sept). The rate in Stroud district of 23.3 per 100,000 is lower than in the Forest of Dean (26.5) and Cheltenham (26.7) but other areas of Gloucestershire have even lower rates: Tewkesbury (13.7), Gloucester (10.1) and Cotswold (7.8). We still need to stick to the guidance to get infection numbers down to really low levels.
- Across Gloucestershire, 110 people tested positive in the week to the 24th March (down from 125 in the previous week) – now back to the levels last seen at the end of September (110 in the week to 23rd September).
- 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 down to 6 patients on the 23rd March (the most recent date data is available), down from 11 the week before (the proportion of beds occupied by confirmed Covid-19 patients is down to 1%). There are no patients in Mechanical Ventilation beds locally.
- In Gloucestershire, the most recent data – up to the 12th March – shows that 1,173 people have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate (11 people have been added to the total in the most recent week of data). 196 of these people were from the Stroud district (three more people have died since we last reported). We send our condolences to all affected.
- Nationally, the number of deaths in a week is – in the most recent death certificate data from the week to the 12th March – now back to levels at/below the 5 year average – for the first time October.
- We now have one full year of data based on death certificates (from the week ending 13 March 2020 up to 12 March 2021): “651,310 people died in England and Wales during that year. Of the deaths registered by 12 March 2021, 135,808 (20.9%) mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate. During this period, the number of excess deaths above the five-year average was 120,181 deaths.” (ONS)
- Further detail and charts on the above and more are below:
People who have tested positive
Looking week-by-week, you can see that across Gloucestershire the number of people testing positive continues to fall: 110 in the most recent week (to 24th March), compared to 125 in the week to 17th March. This equates to a rate of 18.1 per 100,000 people (or roughly 1 in every 5,500 people) – the 9th lowest rate for all equivalent local authorities across the UK, and behind only Devon and the Isle of Wight among English local authorities. You can view daily numbers for Gloucestershire on the government’s dashboard. Across Gloucestershire, a total of 22,223 people have now tested positive.
Looking at Stroud district specifically, 26 people tested positive in the most recent week – to 24th March – down from 37 in the previous week and 40 in the week before that. At time of writing this is a rate of 23.3 people per 100,000 (or roughly one in every 4,300 people). Numbers of infections continue to fall. The number of people who have tested positive in the most recent week is on track to return to the low levels of August, July and June if people continue to follow the guidelines. Across Stroud district, 3,716 people have now tested positive.
We can compare rates in different local authority areas, by looking at how many people have tested positive in the past 7 day period compared to the population. The rate in Stroud district of 23.3 per 100,000 is lower than in the Forest of Dean (26.5) and Cheltenham (26.7) but other areas of Gloucestershire have even lower rates: Tewkesbury (13.7), Gloucester (10.1) and Cotswold (7.8). However, these differences are small and the more significant difference is with these local authorities as a whole and those with higher rates. Nearby South Gloucestershire (40), Wychavon (38.6), and West Oxfordshire (38) all have rates roughly double those within Gloucestershire local authorities, but even these are well below the highest rates in the country – Barnsley (162.8) and Merthyr Tydfil (134.3) for example, have rates 5 or more times higher than those in Stroud district.
A portion of positive tests will come from Lateral Flow Device testing associated with schools – we are hopefully catching more people without symptoms who are positive and this should help break transmission chains. In order to be sure that this higher number of tests aren’t altering our understanding of what’s happening, one thing we can do is look at the proportion of PCR tests (for people with symptoms) are positive – this is falling. There is some complexity around whether people who test positive with an LFD get a confirmatory PCR test, but that shouldn’t affect the numbers too much. The most recent data has 0.7% of people who undertook a PCR test testing positive – down from 1.1% a week ago, and 1.2% a week before that. The rate (which covers the previous 7 days) was last this low on the 20th September. This is consistent with the raw numbers of people testing positive, and suggests prevalence (the amount of people with the virus in the community) can be compared even if the number of tests being conducted has changed.
Looking at smaller areas, the government’s map shows much of the district – and surrounding areas across the county and beyond – with fewer than 2 positive tests in the week to 23rd March (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 in the previous 7 days in these places). See below for trends by areas of the district (“MSOAs” – “Middle Layer Super Output Areas – a statistical geography). The area with the highest rate of cases in Gloucestershire is Cam where the rate is 104.4 per 100,000 over the past 7 days, and infection numbers appear to be rising. In Stroud district, the only other areas with significant numbers of cases are Leonard Stanley and Uley (4 cases, down 3 from the previous week – rate of 57.9 per 100,000), and Stonehouse (4 cases, up 2 from the previous week – rate of 49.8 per 100,000 people).
Below are the charts for trends – you can see how cases are falling in most of the district – up to the 20th March. At that point, cases remained higher/possibly rising rather than low/falling only in Cam. There is a small uptick in Stonehouse and in Ebley and Ranwick but these are not sustained rises and could mean contact tracing case finding related to low numbers of cases (1 or 2) in the week before.
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 163 active cases for the district – up 14 from last week by their measure, back to the level of the week before. The team behind these estimate have recently updated their system. The flat estimates are not a cause for alarm but 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.
Data from the NHS on vaccinations shows that, in total and as of the 7th March (the most recent available data) there have been 334,459 Covid-19 vaccine doses delivered in Gloucestershire (up 57,908 in the past week of data – the highest number of weekly vaccinations we have data for). Of these, 302,836 are first doses and 31,623 second doses. Based on the 2019 population estimate for the area, these have covered approximately:
- 58% of the Gloucestershire population aged 16+ has had a first dose (48% of the total population, including people aged under 16 who are not included in current vaccination plans), 6% have had a second dose.
- This compares to 58% and 4% for the South West as a whole.
- And across England, 52% of the population aged 16+ have had a first dose and 4% a second dose.
- Across Stroud district, every part of the district (“MSOA” level as above) has seen enough first doses given to cover 50% or more of the population. Rates are highest as a percentage of estimated residents in Painswick, Bisley and Eastcombe (73%), Minchinhampton & Amberley (73%), and Frampton, Whitminster & Eastington (72%). These rates are higher because a higher proportion of the population is in eligible categories (ie, aged 50 or over, working in health or social care, or clinically vulnerable).
People aged 50 and over can now book to be vaccinated at one of the mass vaccination sites via this link, as can anyone who meets the criteria for other top priority groups. Making a booking at a mass vaccination site (Gloucester, Bristol, Bath, Malvern, Oxford etc) will not affect whether you receive a GP surgery invite to a local vaccination hub or site in the district. You can cancel bookings at mass vaccination sites via the link (under “manage your bookings”). Please ensure to do this with time for people to take the slot so vaccine isn’t wasted. If you are able to travel to a mass vaccination site, you free up space for people who cannot travel at the local hubs.
If you are aged over 50 or over, or believe you are Clinically Vulnerable or a carer for someone who is, you can book via the link above, but if you can’t get to one of the mass vaccination sites (Gloucester is the nearest but is often fully booked and the other sites are in Bristol, Bath, Malvern, Oxford etc) please get in touch with your surgery by email to check you have not been missed.
Check out our videos with Dr Jim Holmes and Practice Manager Karen Pitney from Rowcroft Medical Centre on “why you should get vaccinated“, “the process for receiving your vaccination” and “second doses“.
“The NHS in Gloucestershire is this week urging people aged 50 years and over to take up their appointment offer of a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine without delay. Local GP services have been contacting patients by text or letter with reminders going out in recent days.” (25th March update)
Rowcroft Medical Centre update on 23rd March says “if you are over 50 or if you have one of the conditions listed in the Green Book – link in a previous post – and have not yet been invited please call us!”
Prices Mill surgery update on 24th March says “if anyone over 50 or Clinically Vulnerable (Groups 1-9) wants the vaccine and has not yet received it, please contact the surgery as we may not have up-to-date details for you. You will continue to remain eligible, so please call the surgery.”.
The table below shows the vaccination hubs associated with different surgeries in the district.
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].
We understand many people are keen to be vaccinated but please try to be patient, the vaccine rollout is an enormous logistical challenge – over 25 million people being vaccinated in 4 months is unprecedented, and GP surgeries are doing this on top of their normal workload. If you have questions about when you’ll be vaccinated please either ask in our Facebook group or email GP surgeries rather than calling them.
There continue to be regular updates in our Facebook group about vaccination locally – including from GP surgeries (see the Facebook group topic). If you’ve had your jab recently, please do read advice on continuing to be cautious after receiving your vaccination).
- 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 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 now down to – 6 patients on the 23rd March (the most recent date data is available), down from 11 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, and it seems clear that soon there will be no Covid-19 patients in local hospitals again, as was last the case in September (there were last fewer than 6 in early October).
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): 0.8% on 23rd March. There is starting to be a little more spare capacity in the hospitals: 10% of beds were unoccupied on 23rd March.
Nationally, the number of Covid-19 patients being admitted to hospital has been falling fast – 343 people were admitted on the 24th March (compared to 443 seven days previously). This number is now less than a tenth of the peak daily number for this ‘wave’ (4,576 Covid-19 patients were admitted on the 12th January), and around a tenth of the first ‘wave’ peak (3,150 on the 7th April).
Because people with Covid-19 tend to stay in hospital for some time, the total number of people with the virus in hospitals remains fairly high – 4,560 on the 25th March, the same number as on the 18th June last year (down a long way from the peak of 39,249 on 18th January.
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 615 patients in these beds as of the 26th March. We send our best for their recovery. The chart below, from this week’s Independent SAGE briefing – shows how the number of adult critical care beds that are occupied now is now close to the number occupied last winter. The chart also shows how capacity was increased, and how much higher numbers of people in critical care in England were compared to last year, and last years capacity.
Across the UK, the KCL/ZOE app team estimate around 69,900 people had a symptomtic infection on the 28th March, based on symptom reporting by up to 4.6 million app users. This compares to 74,800 last week and a peak of 806,000 on the 12th January. The chart below shows how the KCL/ZOE estimate roughly matches the two random sample studies of prevalence run by the ONS and “REACT” (Imperial College/Ipsos Mori).
People who have died with Covid-19
In Gloucestershire, the most recent data – up to the 12th March – shows that 1,173 people have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate (11 people have been added to the total in the most recent week of data). 196 of these people were from the Stroud district (three more people have died since we last reported). We send our condolences to all affected.
The data is from registrations of death up to the 12th March, and sadly we know it will continue to rise. Barring dramatic mutations/failures of policy, we should never see the weekly numbers we have seen recently again.
Over the course of the pandemic, the rate of people who have died with Covid-19 on their death certificate compared to the population in Stroud district is 163.4 people per 100,000 – one in every 613 people. This is higher than for the Forest of Dean (139 people), by similar to Cotswold district (162.5), and lower than for Tewkesbury (206), Cheltenham (209) and Gloucester (210). Across the UK, it is also relatively low – places like Blackpool (329), Merthyr Tydfil (343) and Rhondda Cynon Taf (362 – in in every 276 people) have seen more than twice as many people die compared to their local population.
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 26th February. It is sobering reading – but the number of deaths continues to fall:
- “The number of deaths registered in the UK in the week ending 12 March 2021 was 12,465, which was 605 fewer than the five-year average; of deaths registered in the UK in Week 10, 1,637 deaths involved COVID-19, that is, 643 lower than in Week 9.”
- “Using the most up-to-date data we have available, the number of deaths from the week ending 13 March 2020 up to 12 March 2021 was 651,310 in England and Wales. Of the deaths registered by 12 March 2021, 135,808 (20.9%) mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate. During this period, the number of excess deaths above the five-year average was 120,181 deaths.“
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 Kit Yates that includes a section on the impact of schools reopening.
Globally, over 2.77 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 risen recently – to to 9,402 on March 26th from 8,782 on March 20th, having been been falling dramatically since January 26th (14,402). This is tragically still very high – considerably higher than during Spring 2020. While things are improving in the UK, there is a long way to go globally before the pandemic is over.
In terms of rates of the number of people to have died per million people, the UK remains one of the worst affected countries – based on publicly available data (currently the 7th worst affected of all countries), at 1,868 people per million – behind only Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Montenegro, Slovenia, Belgium, Czechia and San Marino (2,475 per million – though obviously a country with a much smaller population than the others). There are caveats about this data as all countries will be using slightly different recording but…
Several countries have much lower death rates, including Estonia (648 per million), Denmark (417 per million), Turkey (367 per million), Finland (147 per million), Norway (121 per million), Bangladesh (54 per million), Cuba (37 per million), Australia (36 per million), South Korea (34 per million), New Zealand (5 people per million), Singapore, China, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Bhutan Mongolia, and Eritrea (all below 5 people per million), and 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 (49) – behind only a few other countries like Israel (115 – ie, moving into enough doses to cover everyone, but some will be second doses) and United Arab Emirates (80), and Chile (50). Globally, the rate is 6.9 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.
The core advice remains: please book a test (see full details at the end of this page). You can now do this whether or not you have symptoms. The link will tell you which type of test to book if you have symptoms or not. There is a permanent unit at Hempsted Meadow in Gloucester, and a walk-in unit in Stratford Park. See this link for details of testing locations in Gloucestershire. If you have symptoms (or if you are asked to by contact tracers), self-isolate until you have a negative test – or for 10 days since your symptoms appeared if you test positive or are asked to by Test and Trace. 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.
The County Council have updated their information about how you can book a test locally. You can now do this whether or not you have symptoms. The link will tell you which type of test to book if you have symptoms or not, and where you can pick up testing kits for households with school-aged children.
- For people with symptoms, there are permanent testing units at Hempsted Meadow in Gloucester, and a walk-in unit in Stratford Park.
- Without symptoms, there is a site in Gloucester City and one located at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) in Cirencester. A third site will be opening in the Forest of Dean on the 10th March.
- You can pick up a testing kit from the permanent testing units at: Hempsted Meadows, Gloucester; High St Car Park, Cheltenham; and Stratford Park, Stroud.
See this link for details of testing locations in Gloucestershire.