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18th Sept 2021 data update

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

Our weekly updates are now shorter (for more detail, see our Monthly update for August, or page on vaccination which covers detailed data for the district on a monthly basis).

Around the country, numbers of people testing positive and being admitted to hospital are falling (see national section below). In Gloucestershire, the decline in people testing positive is dramatic – the county now has the lowest rate of people testing positive per 100,000 population in England (139) for equivalent local authorities, and behind only the Outer Hebrides in the UK! Among smaller local authorities, the rate in Cheltenham is in fact the lowest for all Lower Tier Local Authories in the UK. Tewkesbury has the third lowest rate, Gloucester the 5th lowest, and Stroud the 6th lowest rate in the UK.

(these rates may need to be treated with a little caution as we have anecdotally heard of some likely infections where people received inconclusive or possible false negative PCR tests. The decline is so deep that a problem at a testing lab may be involved – but we have also seen declines this steep before, so it’s also plausible it is real – we report is as such below).

Gloucestershire – positive tests, hospital admissions, people in hospital

The first chart shows a comparison of the key data for Gloucestershire:

  • The number of people testing positive for the first time each day has fallen dramatically (blue line on chart)- to around 100 rather than above 350. In the seven days to 16th September, 709 people in total tested positive for the first time, less than half the 1,741 people in the 7 days to 9th September.
  • The number of people being admitted to hospital with or diagnosed in hospital with Covid-19 (purple double line on chart) continues to fluctuate at just under 50 per week (46 admitted in the week to 12th September – compared to 44 in the week to the 5th). In this ‘wave’, the peak was 64 people admitted in the week to 19th July (purple double-line), but since the 2nd August, the 7 day total has not fallen below 30.
  • There are a 26 people who are still in Gloucester/Cheltenham hospitals with Covid-19, as of 14th September (red columns on chart). Two of these patients are in Mechanical Ventilation beds (down from three last week). We wish all patients well with their recovery.
  • Two people who lived in Gloucestershire have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the week to 3rd September which is the latest data for this measure. 21 people who lived in Gloucestershire have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate between 1st June and 3rd September.
Chart by James Beecher and Claire Biggs, based on data from the Public Health England dashboard

Covid-19 related admissions to hospital and numbers of people in hospital are relatively low (accounting for around 3% of general and acute beds at Gloucester and Cheltenham hospitals). However, pressure on local hospitals for other reasons is high – only 3% of general and acute beds are unoccupied – and this represents a considerable drop from 11% on the 18th July (see chart below).

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

Rates of people testing positive per 100,000 people across the county have fallen dramatically to between from around 94 to 181 per 100,000 people across the different districts. Across Gloucestershire the rate has more than halved from 365 to 140 per 100,000 people across Gloucestershire. This is now equivalent to around one in every 710 people testing positive for the first time in the last week, rather than one in every 246 people. The rates are still higher than the levels in March – May, but comparable with rates in mid-June. The decline has occured across all districts, but the lowest rate in Cheltenham (94 people per 100,000) is half that of Cotswold district (181 per 100,000 people). Stroud district has a rate of 141 per 100,000 or one in every approx. 720 people, in line with the average across Gloucestershire. The rate in Cheltenham is in fact the lowest for all Lower Tier Local Authories in the UK. Tewkesbury has the third lowest rate, Gloucester the 5th lowest, and Stroud the 6th lowest rate in the UK.

The chart below also includes the trend for England, which is also showing a decline but not as fast as in Gloucestershire. The England rate is now 274 per 100,000 – roughly double the rate across Gloucestershire. These rapid declines may not be sustained, but at minimum are very welcome (particularly given schools have reopened which we might have expected to increase transmission. This may yet happen with time, but there is no sign of it across the population as a whole (though see age breakdown below). You can view daily numbers for Gloucestershire, or districts within it, on the government’s dashboard, and there is more information below.

The chart below shows the difference in rates for people aged over and under 60. In the week to the 13th September, 770 of the 890 people living in Gloucestershire to test positive for the first time were aged under 60 (87%, a rate of 167 per 100,000 people aged under 60), compared to 120 people aged 60 or over (a rate of 67 per 100,000 people aged 60 or over). Cases have been rising slowly among over 60s, but are dropping in both age bands (though more rapidly among under 60s).

Source: gov.uk data dashboard – Gloucestershire

Rates of people testing positve for the first time by PCR compared to the number of people in an age band are highest in those aged 10 to 19 years old, followed by those aged 5-9 years old. These are the only age bands where infection rates have risen lately (and could be associated partly with schools reopening – though rates have been rising in these age groups since before that date).

Rates are lowest in over 80s, which is good because this is the group most at risk if they are infected, and also a sign that vaccination is working (rates of vaccination takeup are highest in the 80+ group, at an estimated 96%)

Source: Public Health England

Within Stroud district, the rate of people testing positive compared to the population is highest in is Stonehouse at 225 per 100,000 people. However, this is both falling (the number of people testing positive in a week is down 31% on last week), and less than half the rate that was the top in the district last week (Berkeley & Sharpness, with a rate of 495 per 100,000 people last week – which has since dropped to 178 per 100,000 people).

Across the county we are now seeing many areas with low rates (the green on the map) and – for the first time in months – areas with fewer than 3 cases over the past week (two in Cheltenham). Stroud Town is an example of a place with a green coloured area on the map. 10 people tested positive for the first time in the seven days to 13th September (compared to 55 in our last report), giving a rate of 86 per 100,000 people (in other words, fewer than 1 in every 1,000 people). See below for more detail on the parts of Stroud district.

Source: govt interactive map

The charts below show different areas of Stroud district with the number of people testing positive each week till the 12th September. These show numbers of people testing positive rather than rates adjusted to local population – with drops in all areas – particuarly pronounced in Ebley & Randwick, Stroud Town, and Wotton-under-Edge and Kingswood.

Data collated by Claire Biggs, charts by James Beecher. Data from Public Health England – MSOA

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

Vaccinations

Charts and analysis of data from the NHS on Covid-19 vaccinations is now collated in a monthly vaccination update (last updated 5th September). The main headline figures are that:

Across Stroud district, 89% of those aged 16+ (ie, most of those eligible) have recieved at least one dose. Around 73% of the population are fully vaccinated, with a further 5% having received a first but not a second dose (78% of the population has received at least one dose).

National context

You can see a summary of the trends on the government dashboard at this link.

Across the UK, the number of people to have tested positive in the past 7 days is 206,929. This is 20% lower than the number that tested positive in the previous week – 50,920 fewer people have tested positive in the week. The number of tests completed has fallen too, but not by nearly as much (down 13%), so can’t explain this alone.

The numbers of people dying within 28 days of a positive test has sadly risen above 1,000 a week (1,003 in the past 7 days, up 20 / 2%).

However, the number of patients being admitted to hospital (6,627 in the past 7 days) has falled by 4.7% – 330 fewer people were admitted this week compared to last. Hospital admissions lag infections so hopefully the fall in infections will translate into a decline in hospital admissions, and then to fewer people dying, soon.

The number of patients in critical care with Covid-19 is over 1,000. While this is lower than in previous ‘wave’s (at nearly 4,000 in spring 2020, and nearly 5,000 in early 2021), it represents around 20% of normal critical care capacity – and as a sustained level creates severe pressure on the NHS (and means ICU cannot be used for other patients, including held for people who may experience complications from operations).

Source: ICNARC report

Across the UK, the KCL/ZOE app team estimate around 679,000 people had a symptomatic infection on the 18th September, based on symptom reporting by up to 4.6 million app users (down from around 700,000 on the 12th September).

We can look at where we are compared to ‘models’ (predictions by experts that rely on attempts to use data on vaccination and prior infection levels, and changes in people’s behaviour, the seasons etc, to predict numbers of infections and hospital admissions. The two charts below are from Graham Medley, Professor of infectious disease modelling and chair of SPI-M (sub-group of SAGE).

The first shows hospital admissions (red dots) vs modelling produced on the 7th July, ahead of the ‘step 4’ reopening that took place on 19th July. As you can see, the red dots are roughly flat at around the 1,000 per day level, way below some of the scenarios. The chart below this one compares the numbers to the ‘middle’ of the estimates… Of the first chart, Medley says: “the flatness is quite striking. Vaccination has changed the dynamics from rapid up-down (alpine) to a much slower, more chronic (prairie) landscape. Less excitement, but don’t underestimate the public health impact”

Source: Graham Medley

The next chart shows the same data but on a ‘logarithmic’ scale that essentially squashes the scale so it is easier to see rates of change at lower numbers. It also adds the central estimates (black o’s) and lines to show the range of possible scenarios (ie, the x points at the maximum end of the lines were expected to be less likely). Of this chart, Medley says: “Whilst the collection of models gather round the actual data, none of them had this flat trajectory. Somehow transmission rates are exactly balancing immunity”

Source: Graham Medley – log plot

International context

The numbers of people dying with their deaths attributed to Covid-19 continue to rise, particularly in Asia. Over 4.6 million people have had their death attributed to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. This is believed to be a significant underestimate: 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).

The chart below compares deaths over the past week with the previous week to show deaths rising particularly fast in Suriname, Guyana, and Malaysia, followed by the USA, Mexico, Serbia, Bulgaria Russia, Iran, Kazazhstan, Tunisia. Bear in mind that data for countries in Africa is much less likely to be complete – so may not fully reflect reality.

Notes

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).

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.