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August 2021 monthly Covid-19 data summary

Team members James Beecher and Claire Biggs summarise data on Covid-19

With the changing situation we are reducing the time we spend on these updates. Each month we’ll issue a shorter data summary, and separate vaccination update. The other weeks will have a more localised data summary (covering parts of Stroud district as well as the district as a whole and county). Please read and share the shorter update below!

This week’s update is shorter, please read and share!

Gloucestershire – positive tests, hospital admissions, people in hospital

The first chart shows a comparison of the key data for Gloucestershire, in a new monthly format:

  • In August 2021, a total of 8,961 people tested positive for SARS-COV-2 for the first time. This is the highest ever monthly figure, with July 2021 second (8,281), and January 2021 the third highest (6,471). On the chart, to make the bars fit on a single scale, instead of the total the average daily number is presented (blue bars). This is 289 for August 2021, compared to 267 in July 2021, 209 in January 2021, and 134 in August 2020). However, while high numbers of cases are concerning, we don’t know how many are without symptoms or mild. We know that a higher proportion now are likely to be milder as they are more often in younger people – who represent most of the remaining unvaccinated people (see chart below), with those instances of positive cases among vaccinated people much less likely to be severe. We can see this through the other measures: while monthly numbers of people testing positive are the highest ever, the number of people admitted/diagnosed with Covid-19 in Gloucester/Cheltenham hospitals (with severe cases in the county sent to Gloucester) is much lower than in November-January last year.
  • In August 2021, a total of 196 people were admitted/diagnosed with Covid-19. This is very similar to July 2021 (187), but less than a third of the total in January 2021 (680). Hospital admissions lag cases as it takes time for people to get sick enough to need hospital, but the difference with last month does not suggest a dramatic rise will follow based on this months positive tests.
  • Likewise, the number of people dying is much lower. than in the autumn/winter. In August 2021, 16 people died who had lived in Gloucestershire died within 28 days of a positive test. We send our condolences to their loved ones – including those of the one person who had lived in Stroud district. While this represents an increase on recent months (5 people died in July, 1 in June, and no-one died within 28 days of a positive test in May), the numbers are thankfully much lower than in January 2021 (when 227 people died).

People who have tested positive – districts, areas within districts, and age profile

Rates of people testing positive per 100,000 people across the county are still high: 300 per 100,000 people across Gloucestershire – equivalent to one in every 317 people testing positive in the last week (ranging between 265-378 per 100,000 people across the different districts)

The rates across the districts are largely very similar with Stroud district the outlier at 378 per 100,000 (or one in every 265 people testing positive for the first time in the week to 31st August). However, while this could reflect higher prevalence of the virus, it could also reflect different proportion of people with the virus getting a test – the difference isn’t big enough to read much into. However, Stroud district’s rate has broadly been rising since a low of 230 per 100,000 on 28th July, whereas other districts and the county as a whole have been slowing more erratic trends/a decline in the rate of people testing positive lately.

The chart below includes the trend for England, which is broadly very similar to that for Gloucestershire – with an apparent ‘peak’ on the 22nd August and a fall since – but only back to the level at the end of July. It is too early to identify a sustained falling trend – particularly with schools about to return, which will lead to more tests and potentially more identification of cases without symptoms, and could also involve more spread of the virus too. You can view daily numbers for Gloucestershire, or districts within it, on the government’s dashboard, and there is more information below.

Though there has been a very considerable increase, this is associated mainly with younger people. That does not mean it’s not a problem (as younger people can still get severe illness – even if this is less likely than for older groups on the whole – can get long covid, and can pass the virus on to people at greater risk). However, it does suggest that vaccination is working well in the groups most likely to be fully vaccinated (most people aged over 30 should have had time to get two jabs by now, but rates of full vaccination are much higher for people over 60, in part because of the longer time they’ve had to decide to take up the offer).

The chart below shows the difference between people aged over and under 60. In the week to the 31st August, 1,694 of the 1,920 people living in Gloucestershire to test positive for the first time were aged under 60 (88%), compared to 226 people aged 60 or over (whereas in previous waves numbers have been roughly evenly split between age groups). Cases have been rising slowly among over 60s, with rates now around the level of December last year, but far fewer appear to be being hospitalised (see chart above).

Source: gov.uk data dashboard – Gloucestershire

Finally in terms of people with the virus, the ZOE Symptom Study app estimates there are 1333 people with active symptomatic infections in Stroud district as of 5th September – up 285 on last week, and the highest ever estimated number. This is an estimate based on people reporting symptoms and test results – hence differing from the number of test results alone (because we know not everyone can/does get tested).

You can enter your postcode into the government’s dashboard to get more data on your local area.

Vaccination

Data from the NHS on Covid-19 vaccinations is now collated in a monthly vaccination update (last updated on 5th September). The main headline figures are that: Across Stroud district, around 71% of the population are fully vaccinated, with a further 6% having received a first but not a second dose (77% of the population has received at least one dose).

National context

New government guidance has been out since 19th July. While many restrictions have been lifted, please see the NHS webpage on “How to avoid catching and spreading coronavirus“. Please also read our SCCR statement on the current situation where cases are very high, which underlines that “we can still choose to act conscientiously and with compassion for others“. There are people in our community who have do not have the protection granted by vaccination (including those who cannot have jabs, or do not benefit as much from them because of a health condition/treatment, as well as those who for whatever reason have not taken up the offer of vaccination yet).

You can see a summary of the trends on the government dashboard at this link, and in the image below (Described in text below the image)

Across the UK, the number of people to have tested positive in the past 7 days is 249,169. This is slightly higher than the number that tested positive in the previous week – 8,641 more (a 3.6% increase). This possibly includes a Bank Holiday effect and we’ll need to wait a little longer to see the trend.

Based on a large random sample testing (rather than people seeking tests/being tested at work) the Office for National Statistics estimate that around “766,100 people within the community population in England had COVID-19… equating to around 1 in 70 people” in the week ending 27th August. This will cover people with no symptoms/mild illness more than the number of people testing positive will. The proportion is about level in England (at around 1.5% of people), but was rising in Wales and Scotland, and falling in Northern Ireland

The numbers of people dying within 28 days of a positive test is thankfully lower than last week, but not by much (792 in the past 7 days, down 5 / -0.6%). Further, the number of patients being admitted to hospital (6,566 in the past 7 days, up 234 / 3.7%) are also rising (we’d expect these to lag numbers of people testing positive as it takes time to get sick). In terms of people aged 16+ alone (most of those eligible, only some 12-15 year olds can access vaccination due to clinical vulnerability of either themselves or household members), across the UK four-fifths (79.8%) have been fully vaccinated and 9 in 10 (88.8%) have received at least one dose.

Across the UK, the KCL/ZOE app team estimate around 738,430 people had a symptomtic infection on the 5th September, based on symptom reporting by up to 4.6 million app users (up from 638,522 on the 22nd August).

International context

The number of people testing positive globally each day seems to have turned a corner: 626,160 (7-day-rolling average to Sept 4th – down on 660,974 on August 26th). The situation is different in different continents (and countries within them). Confirmed cases have been falling consistently for some time in South America – to the lowest levels since spring last year, but have risen dramatically in North America, and in Asia, though in both places they appear to be hitting a peak (obviously the contintent level obscures massive variations between and within countries).

The numbers of people dying with their deaths attributed to Covid-19 continue to rise, particularly in Asia. Over 4.5 million people have had their death attributed to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. This is believed to be a significant underestimate due to limited death registration data in many countries – including India for example. The Economist estimates that excess mortality at 15.2 million (which will include deaths from causes other than Covid-19 as well as deaths caused by Covid-19 but not recorded as such).

Notes

The core advice remains: 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, or call 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm, 7 days a week to self-refer or visit NHS Volunteer Responders. You may be able to receive financial support to self-isolate from Stroud District Council.

Book a test via this link. You can now do this whether or not you have symptoms – it’s really important you isolate and get tested if you have symptoms (fever, new cough, loss of smell/taste). The link will tell you which type of test to book if you have symptoms or not. Twice weekly rapid tests are available to everyone in England without symptoms. If you have symptoms, 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.

Whether or not you have symptoms, please still follow the public health advice to meet outside when possible, keep indoor spaces well ventilated with fresh air, 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.

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. We 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. We’re also volunteers with no public health expertise – collating and signposting to other sources for guidance.

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.