We post regular updates on news around vaccination eligibility/rollout, government policy and more in our Facebook group, where you can also ask any questions you have about any aspect of the pandemic and response. Here are three key signposts to further information
- Please see the latest update from NHS Gloucestershire on what you need to know about accessing Covid-19 boosters and vaccinations: “The NHS in Gloucestershire is reassuring people who are eligible for a COVID booster that they will receive an invitation from local NHS services to book in for their vaccination when the time is right, there is no need for them to contact their GP surgery at this time.”
- The government has introduced “New rules in response to Omicron variant”:
“You must wear a face covering in shops and on public transport. Face coverings should be worn in communal areas of universities, colleges and schools by staff, visitors and pupils or students in year 7 and above.
If you’re travelling to England from abroad you must take a PCR test before the end of day 2 following your arrival and self-isolate until you get a negative test result, even if you’re fully vaccinated.
If you’re a contact of someone who may have been infected with the Omicron variant, you must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of your age, vaccination status or any negative test results.”Measures against Omicron variant come into effect: 30 November 2021
- The John Hopkins School of Public Health have a really helpful piece on what we do and do not yet know about the Omicron Variant of COVID-19, in the form of a Q&A With Virologist Andrew Pekosz. His key point? “This is not February 2020. We have tools in place, we have immunity in a significant part of the population. This is a concern, but we’re in a much better place to deal with this and mitigate the extreme effects of this variant than we were at the beginning of the pandemic.”
Gloucestershire – positive tests, hospital admissions, people in hospital
First, some key numbers. In the most recent data
- 3,356 people living in Gloucestershire tested positive for the first time in the week to the 30th November. This is the highest seven-day total since the 3rd November (3,544), and there appears to be a slowly rising trend since the 25th November. Case numbers are still very high (at the peak in January 2021, 2,424 people tested positive for the first time (week to 4th January), though the age profile of people testing positive is substantially different now (see below), as is the severity – with a much lower proportion of people who test positive now being admitted to hospital (since vaccination)
- 39 people were admitted to Gloucester/Cheltenham hospital with Covid-19, or diagnosed in the hospital in the week to the 1st December. This is down from 56 in the previous week, and – having recently hit 100 people admitted/diagnosed in the week to 31st October – below 40 people in seven-day period for the first time since 10th September.
- There were 55 people in Gloucester/Cheltenham hospital with Covid-19 as of 30th November – up from 48 last week (but still down from peak of 74 patients with Covid-19 in these hospitals on 8th November). The number in critical care is still high since April – 7 patients on the 30th November, down from 8 last week. We wish everyone in hospital well, and send our best wishes to their loved ones during anxious times.
- Nine more people died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the most recent week we have data for – to 19th November. Since August a total of 83 people who had lived in Gloucestershire have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate, of a total 1,275 people who have died associated with the county. We send our best wishes to everyone in hospital and their loved ones, and our condolences to those who have lost loved ones.
Looking at tests – the first chart below shows that, following the impact of the Immensa false negatives, positive test rates in Stroud district and Gloucestershire have dropped back to levels similar to those for the whole of England. As of the 27th November, Stroud had a rate of 383 people testing positive for the first time in the past week per 100,000, England is at 438 per 100,000, and Gloucestershire as a whole has a rate of 490 per 100,000. The differences are small enough that they likely don’t mean a lot – rates are fluctuating but not far off being broadly flat.
Bear in mind these are the number of people testing positive and we know not everyone gets tested (the ONS estimate that “around 1 in 65 people” in England would have tested positive in the week to 20th November – similar across the South West – about 1 in 63).
It’s essential to stress that the age profile of cases is very different now to previously – instead of a roughly even split, cases are now predominantly among those aged under 60 (less likely to be vaccinated). In the week to 27th November, there were 2,854 cases among under 60s, more than ten times the number in over 60s – 282. The rates per population in each group were 157 cases per 100,000 people aged 60+ in Gloucestershire, and 620 per 100,000 people aged under 60 (in other words, more than 3 times the rate).
Rates are particularly high among 10-14 year olds, 1.4% of whom (ie, more than 1 in every 100 young people in this age group in Gloucestershire) tested positive for the first time in the week to 27th November. More than 1 in every 100 5-9 year-olds also tested positive for the first time in the same week (1.2%). The highest rate among adults is for 40-44 year olds (likely to be parents, and with a lower rate of vaccination that those aged 60+) – of whom 0.8% tested positive for the first time in the past week (1 in every 125 people).
Looking at hospital admissions, numbers in hospitals, and numbers of weekly deaths where Covid-19 is mentioned on someone’s death certificate. The chart below shows how deaths are much lower, and admissions and numbers in hospital reached levels around half the rates of peaks in previous waves. Hopefully, we have seen the highest peak that will be reached in this ‘wave’ – and that it has been lower is a testament to vaccination. However, if the new Omicron variant is more transmissable, reduces the protection offered by vaccination/prior infection, or turns out to be more severe… things could change. We have to wait and see – and please take care while data is coming in, this isn’t a time to be complacent.
The chart below shows just the hospital admission data from May to December to more clearly show how there was a rising trend, but that this seems to have now ended. Hopefully, admissions will continue to fall.
The chart below shows there were Critical Care bed occupancy for Gloucestershire NHS Foundation Trust (covering Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham General hospitals), over the past year. The number of Covid-19 patients now is similar to this time last year – made up largely of unvaccinated people. Together with non-Covid patients in Critical Care, this has pushed the number of unoccupied critical care beds to it’s lowest numbed since May – there were just 2 unoccupied beds on the 25th and 26th November. Data on non-Covid-19 patients and unoccupied beds in Critical Care is only available from April 2021 – but you can see how much pressure critical care beds were under as a result of high numbers of Covid-19 patients in January 2021.
Bear in mind that a bed requires staff, and that critical care staff are now dealing with their third major wave of Covid patients – that require particularly high levels of care – in under two years. For some insight into what it this is like for health workers – watch the video (which we also shared last week) from Gloucestershire Royal.
Comparing the interactive map of cases for our local area, from last week and this week, shows a slighly improved local picture – with more areas in the 200-399 people per 100,000 testing positive in the past week, and Leonary Stanley and Uley dropping to 156 per 100,000 (light blue).
Numbers of new positive tests are practically the same this week in Stroud Town as last (56 compared to 55). Some areas around Cheltenham and Gloucester have rates of over 800 per 100,000 people – including Tuffley, and Oakley where 1,140 and 1,145 people per 100,000 respectively have tested positive for the first time in the last week alone (that’s more than 1 in every 100 people living in the two areas).
Ian Campbell’s excellent interactive Covid data site shows Torridge in Devon continues to have the highest rates in the South West by some distance, though thankfully rates there and in North Devon appear to have stabilised. Gloucester has the 8th highest rate of local authority areas in the South West, while Stroud district has the 5th lowest rate. Some of these difference will reflect different takeup of testing.
You can view daily numbers for Gloucestershire, or districts within it, on the government’s dashboard, and there is more information below. You can also enter your postcode into the government’s dashboard to get more data on your local area. However, please take into account that the reported data in terms rates per population and of increase are a mess for the period 2nd September to 25th October because of the Immensa false negative scandal.
Very briefly this week: You can see a summary of the trends on the government dashboard at this link.
- The numbers of people dying within 28 days of a positive test has fallen by another 3%. Nonetheless 848 people died within 28 days of a positive test in the week to the 2nd December. By this measure it seems daily numbers peaked on the 31st October. Numbers in this region are being confirmed in the more robust but delayed measure which counts deaths where Covid-19 is mentioned on a death certificate: across the UK 1,088 people died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the week to the 19th November (lower than the 1,197 in the week to 12th November, matching the trend by the other measures). Obviously even 848 people dying in a week is a considerable number, and we should not minimise the impacts of this on loved ones.
- It’s more encouraging that the number of patients admitted to hospital/diagnosed in hospital is still falling – down another 6.5% on the previous week, to 5,282 in the 7 days to 28th November. Again, this is still a considerable number, but one that may have peaked on the 27th October.
- The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital unfortunately seems to have stopped falling. At 7,644 across the UK on the 30th November, it is very similar to and slightly higher than the 7,633 on the 25th November (though still well below the recent peak of 9,661 on the 1st November, the spring 2020 peak of 21,687, and the January 2021 peak of 39,254). Nonetheless, these are considerable numbers for an NHS that have been under considerable additional pressure due to the pandemic for the past 18 months, and is heading into what are usually the worst months of ‘normal’ years… and as a base on which new admissions associated with the new Omicron variant would add to.
- … and numbers of people testing positive for the first time have risen: 311,957 in the 7 days to 2nd December is 2.8% increase on the previous week (a considerably lower rate of increase than last week). It’s too soon to know either if this will feed into more hospital admissions/deaths – although it is starting to look like it may not. The slowing rate of increase is an indication the rise may not be sustained for long, but we’d obviously rather the trend was in the opposite direction aready.
The ONS estimate that “In England, the trend in the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) was uncertain in the week ending 20 November 2021; we estimate that 862,300 people in England had COVID-19 (95% credible interval: 813,800 to 913,300), equating to around 1 in 65 people” (essentially the same as last week)
Across the UK as the whole, KCL/ZOE app team independently estimate around 1million people had an active infection on the 3rd December, based on symptom reporting and reporting of test results by up to 4.7 million app users. This is similar to last week.
In terms of vaccination uptake across Stroud district (compared to England):
- 38.2% of people are estimated to have had a booster or a third primary dose. The latter is offered to severely immunocompromised people who will also get a booster – for them a fourth injection (32,9% across England)
- 82.3% in Stroud district have had at least 2 doses (80.5% across England)
- 88.2% in Stroud district have had at least 1 dose (88.5% across England)
The impact of boosters can be seen in real-world data collated by John Burn-Murdoch from the Financial Times, in the chart below which shows case rates falling dramatically in the 80+ and 60-79 year old groups in November, as the booster rollout moved past 50% of the population in that age group – unlike in October when cases in the age groups had been rising.
Two tweets from John Burn Murdoch on how Omicron is spreading and causing hospital admissions in the Gauteng province of South Africa:
The chart in the above tweet is a log scale, below is the linear version. In both, the “Steepness of lines shows how much faster the growth in cases and positivity is now vs past waves, and hospital admissions are now steepening too as the acceleration in cases feeds through.”
Read the latest government rules and guidance. Some key, locally focused, information and links below.
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. There is a wider list of symptoms associated with the virus to look out for from the ZOE symptom study.
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.