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September 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 longer data summary, and separate vaccination update. The other weeks will shorter summary. Please read and share the shorter update below!

Gloucestershire – positive tests, hospital admissions, people in hospital

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

  • In September 2021, a total of 5,860 people tested positive for SARS-COV-2 for the first time (compared to 8,961 in August, which was the highest ever monthly figure). 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 196 for September 2021, compared to 289 for August 2021, 209 in January 2021, and 14 in September 2020). While high numbers of cases are concerning, we don’t know how many are without symptoms or mild. However, we can get some insight 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 all severe cases in the county sent to Gloucester) is much lower than in November-January last year.
  • In September 2021, a total of 193 people were admitted/diagnosed in hospital with Covid-19 locally. This is very similar to July and August 2021 (187 and 214), 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 month’s positive tests.
  • The number of people dying within 28 days of a positive test each month locally has risen a little recently. In September 2021, 14 people died who had lived in Gloucestershire died within 28 days of a positive test (compared to 16 in August 2021, none in May 2021, and 14 in September 2020). We send our condolences to their loved ones – including those of the seven people who had lived in Stroud district (half of those across the county). While it is essential not to minimise the deaths, the numbers are much lower than earlier this year – in January 2021, 227 people died.

Note: we use the deaths within 28 days of a positive test figure here because it can be collated monthly. We tend to prefer the data for instances where Covid-19 has been mentioned on a death certificate by a clinician. For comparison, in Gloucestershire throughout the pandemic, 966 people have died within 28 days of a positive test, while 1,221 have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate. As you can see on the chart below – access to testing was limited in the ‘first wave’, which explains the discrepancy. You can read more about how Covid-19 deaths are measured from the Office for Statistics Regulation.

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

Rates of people testing positive per 100,000 people have dropped across the county over the past month: 170 compared to 300 per 100,000 people across Gloucestershire – now equivalent to one in every 590 people testing positive in the last week (ranging between 103-226 per 100,000 people across the different districts)

Differences across districts aren’t that large – though Gloucester and Tewkesbury have markedly lower rates. This could reflect different proportions of people with the virus getting a test to an extent – the differences probably aren’t big enough to read much into. That said, we might expect areas where more people have been infected in the past to have fewer people still susceptible to catching the virus (as reinfections are rare), just as areas with higher levels of full vaccination would be expected to have lower rates.

The chart below includes the trend for England, which is similar to that for Gloucestershire. The last month has seen a divergence in scale if not pattern, and there are concerns this may be due to issues with negative PCR results cancelling out positive ‘rapid’ or lateral flow results in the data (if you have or know someone who has had a positive rapid test followed by a negative PCR – read our piece on what to do). This is still being investigated and until there is clear evidence we can only assume the data below is broadly accurate with regard to trends.

Source: James Beecher analysis of data from gov.uk data dashboard – Gloucestershire

You can view daily numbers for Gloucestershire, or districts within it, on the government’s dashboard, and there is more information below.

Trends vary considerably by age groups – with rates per 100,000 in each age group generally lower the higher the proportion vaccinated (with rates also now low among people in their 20s and 30s where there is more immunity from prior infection). Rates have risen sharply among 10-14s recently (over the summer and as schools reopen), but rates among 15-19s have dropped after a wave (and the rollout of vaccination). Sadly rates also appear to have been increasing among those aged 80+ (those likely to be most at risk), which suggests potential care home outbreaks.

In the most recent week, 981 of the 1,086 people to test positive for the first time across Gloucestershire (90%) were aged under 60, compared to 106 aged 60 and over (rates of 213 per 100,000 compared to 59 per 100,000).

Source: James Beecher analysis of data from gov.uk data dashboard – Gloucestershire

The charts below show similar trends but broken down for areas of Stroud district. Rates remain higher in Berkeley & Sharpness, Nailworth, Upton St Leonards and Hardwicke (and may be rising in these places and in Caam, Rodborough and Thrupp), but are generally falling across the district.

Data by Claire Biggs, charts by James Beecher – analysis of gov.uk dashboard data

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

We sometimes hear from people that test results cannot be relied on at all and that numbers of people testing positive only increase because more testing is being done. The chart below shows how the number of people being tested has been changing recently – increasing and decreasing but at much the same level at the end of September as it was at the beginning of July (blue columns). The proportion of tests that return positive results has also changed a lot – in May it was as low as 0.2% of around 16,000 tests complete in a week. In August it reached 9.4% of 24,0000 tests. Most recently it is down to 4.5% of 27,000 tests (though we have some concerns that the drops in positivity lately are partly due to PCRs returning false negatives as people are often receiving these results in the context of Lateral Flow positives and symptoms, which would strongly indicate they are positive. However, we do not know how large a problem this is).

Vaccination

Data from the NHS on Covid-19 vaccinations is now collated in a monthly vaccination update (last updated on 5th September – new update to come soon). The main headline figures are that: Across Stroud district, around 74% of the population are fully vaccinated (up from 71% last month), with a further 5% having received a first but not a second dose (79% of the population has received at least one dose – up from 77% last month). These proportion are of the total population so differ from other data which considers proportions of eligible populations (eg. adults or, now, all over 12).

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 245,815. This is slightly lower than the number that tested positive in the previous week – 361 fewer (a 0.2% decrease), and also very similar to what we reported for the past week one month ago (249,169). Deaths within 28 days of a positive test have fallen dramatically down 104 on the previous week to 755 in the previous seven days (12.1% decrease). 755 people is still an awful number of people to die and again we send our condolences. Hopefully the number will continue to fall as admissions to hospital are also falling – down 178 in the previous week compared to the week before (3.4% decrease): 4,982 people were admitted to hospital with suspected Covid-19 in the past week.

Based on a large random sample testing (rather than people seeking tests/being tested at work) the Office for National Statistics estimate that “in the week ending 25 September 2021 an estimated 658,800 people within the community population [were infected], equating to around 1 in 85 people.” 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 and Northern Ireland (at around 1.5% of people), but was rising in Wales and falling in Scotland.

In terms of people aged 12+ eligible for vaccination, across the UK four-fifths (78.4%) have been fully vaccinated and 85.3% have received at least one dose.

Across the UK, the KCL/ZOE app team estimate around 934,00 people had a symptomtic infection on the 7th October (compared to 738,000 on the 5th September), based on symptom reporting by up to 4.6 million app users.

International context

The number of people testing positive globally each day has been falling for some time: around 448,000 (7-day-rolling average to Oct 6th) compared to around 626,000 to Sept 4th. 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, and have recently been falling in North America, and Asia too. Across Europe cases are flat. While there seems to have been a fall across Africa, data is much more limited for the continent. (obviously the contintent level obscures massive variations between and within countries too).

The numbers of people dying with their deaths attributed to Covid-19 continue to rise, particularly in Asia. Over 4.8 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 15.9 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.