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. Before this weeks summary of the local and national data, here are three key signposts to further information
- The government has introduced “Plan B”. You can read updated guidance on the gov.uk website. We share this for information and welcome discussion about the policy-response in our Facebook group. Key points include:
“From 10 December, face coverings will be required by law in most indoor settings.
From 13 December office workers who can work from home should do so.
From 15 December, certain venues and events will be required by law to check that all visitors aged 18 years or over are fully vaccinated, have proof of a negative test in the last 48 hours, or have an exemption.”
The government are also recommending people use rapid ‘lateral flow’ tests more often, including before mixing with others in crowded/indoor settings.Please click to read the full Government guidance, updated on 8th December. Some measures are subject to parliamentary votes that are yet to take place.
- Please see the latest update from NHS Gloucestershire on what you need to know about accessing Covid-19 boosters and vaccinations. Please don’t call your GP surgery – click the link above for information and if you are unsure – ask in our Facebook group.
- The World Health Organisation’s Director General has put out a short video summarising understanding of Omicron so far (below). You can also read a simple summary on Omicron from the ZOE Symptom Study which covers answers to lots of questions.
Gloucestershire – positive tests, hospital admissions, people in hospital
In the most recent data
- 3,540 people living in Gloucestershire tested positive for the first time in the week to the 7th December – and this hit a new high in a period unaffected by the Immensa-scandal fallout of 3,817 in the 7 days to the 4th December. By contrast, 2,424 people tested positive for the first time in the ‘second wave’ peak week to 4th January. However, the age profile of people testing positive is substantially different now (see below), and a much lower proportion of people who test positive are now being admitted to hospital. However, those numbers are still significant.
- 60 people were admitted to Gloucester/Cheltenham hospital with Covid-19, or diagnosed in the hospital in the week to the 1st December. Weekly numbers had been falling from a peak of 100 people admitted/diagnosed in the week to 31st October – but now appear to have stopped falling.
- There were 62 people in Gloucester/Cheltenham hospital with Covid-19 as of 7th December – the highest number since 15th November, but still yet to exceed the 74 patients with Covid-19 in these hospitals on 8th November. The number in critical care is still high since April – 8 patients on the 7th December (and on some previous days in November). This number hasn’t been exceeded since February 16th. We wish everyone in hospital well, and send our best wishes to their loved ones during anxious times.
- Eleven more people died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the most recent week we have data for – to 26th November. Since August a total of 94 people who had lived in Gloucestershire have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate, two of them from Stroud district. Across Gloucestershire, a total of 1,286 people have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate, 232 of them had been living in Stroud district. 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 rates of people testing positive for the first time compared to population, as of 4th December:
- England has a rate of 438 per 100,000 or around 1 in every 230 people.
- Stroud had a rate of 456 per 100,000 or around 1 in every 220 people
- Gloucestershire as a whole has a rate of 596 per 100,000, or around 1 in every 170 people.
- Rates across England did not appear to be rising to the 4th December, but in Stroud district and Gloucestershire they have been rising since around the 25th November.
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 60 people” in England would have tested positive in the week to 1st December – 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. Cases are now predominantly among those aged under 60 (less likely to be vaccinated – including many aged under 12 unable to be vaccinated). In the week to 4th December, there were 3,576 cases among under 60s, nearly 15 times the number of cases in over 60s – 241. The rates per population in each group were 134 cases per 100,000 people aged 60+ in Gloucestershire, and 776 per 100,000 people aged under 60 (in other words, the rate is more than 5 times as high among under 60s).The chart below shows this gap continues to get wider – this seems to suggest boosters are working to keep case numbers down among those eligible for them.
Rates are particularly high among 10-14 year olds, 1.6% 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 4th December. More than 1 in every 100 5-9 year-olds also tested positive for the first time in the same week (again 1.6% of all children of this age across Gloucestershire). 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 0.9% tested positive for the first time in the past week (1 in every 111 people in the age group).
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 data on a monthly basis – indicating how deaths are much lower, and admissions and numbers in hospital reached levels around half the rates of peaks in previous waves. In both cases this is despite much higher numbers of people testing positive. That’s the result of vaccination protecting those most at risk from infections/the worst outcomes if they are infected. While hospital admissions have not peaked at the same high levels, they have now been sizeable for 5 months.
The chart below shows just the hospital admission data from May to December, covering 7-day totals to more clearly show the trend. What looked like a falling trend last week no longer does – admissions are at a level they have been fluctuating around since late July – around 60 people a week.
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 just below this time last year – 8 patients on 7th December 2021 is the same number as on 30th November 2020. There were just 2 unoccupied beds on the 25th and 26th November, but this number is now back up to 7. This week we’ve dug out older data on critical care bed capacity to show how much pressure critical care beds were under as a result of high numbers of Covid-19 patients in January 2021 – on the 22nd and 27th January every critical care bed was occupied (with Covid-19 patients in critical care hitting a peak of 19 on the 23rd January).
For some insight into what it this is like for health workers – watch the recent video 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 (52 compared to 56). Upton St Leonards and Hardwicke has a rate of 999 per 100,000 – 1 in every 100 people. Some areas around Cheltenham and Gloucester have even higher rates: in Quedgeley South and Tuffley 1,333 and 1,358 people per 100,000 respectively have tested positive for the first time in the last week alone.
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.
Briefly this week – all the trends are going in the wrong direction, sadly. You can see a fuller summary of the trends on the government dashboard at this link.
- The numbers of people dying within 28 days of a positive test has stopped falling, and is higher this week than last (by 0.7%, but numbers had been falling). 854 people died within 28 days of a positive test in the week to the 9th 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 979 people died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the week to the 26th November. While these numbers are around 10 times lower than in the worst weeks of the pandemic when over 9,000 people died in a single week, we should not minimise these numbers. 15,797 people have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificates since the 30th July.
- The number of patients admitted to hospital/diagnosed in hospital has also stopped falling, and is up 4% on the previous weekly total – 5,505 people were admitted/diagnosed in the week to 5th December.
- The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital is still – just – falling. At 7,347 across the UK on 8th December is is lower than the 7,644 across the UK on the 30th November (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 has been under considerable additional pressure due to the pandemic for the past 18 months, particularly if we are to see a rapid increase in new admissions associated with the new Omicron variant.
- … and numbers of people testing positive for the first time have risen: 336,783 in the 7 days to 9th December is 8% increase on the previous week. It’s too soon to know how many hospital admissions/deaths this will lead to.
The ONS say “In England, the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) increased over the last two weeks, but the trend was uncertain in the week ending 1 December 2021; we estimate that 891,500 people in England had COVID-19…, equating to around 1 in 60 people.” (essentially the same as last week). The ONS find considerable variation by age. Among those in school year 2-6, 4.2% are expected to have infections, and 3.9% of school years 7-11. This compares to 1% of those aged 50-69, and just 0.3% of those aged 70+. Again, this is an indiciation of the role vaccinations and boosters are playing in reducing infections.
Across the UK as the whole, KCL/ZOE app team independently estimate around 1.1million people had an active infection on the 10th December, based on symptom reporting and reporting of test results by up to 4.7 million app users. This is up from around 1 million last week.
In terms of vaccination uptake across Stroud district (compared to England):
- 44.2% 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 (37.6% across England)
- 82.6% in Stroud district have had at least 2 doses (80.9% across England)
- 88.5% in Stroud district have had at least 1 dose (88.8% across England)
- Over half of 12-15s have had a first dose – 51.4% (44% accross England), and 37.6% of 16-17s have now had two doses (25.1% across England)
There’s another thread worth reading from John Burn Murdoch on how Omicron is spreading and causing hospital and Intensive Care admissions in the Gauteng province of South Africa. Below are four tweets includes three charts from the thread but it’s worth looking at in full. The key point is that while there’s a complex picture around the proportion of cases that lead to severe outcomes, if case growth rates continue (they may not), “the sheer volume of admissions could mean similar numbers of Covid patients in ICU” as in previous waves.
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 PCR 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.
Rapid tests for people without symptoms are available to everyone in England – and the government is recommending people take them either twice a week, or before mixing with others (which could be more often), and daily if identified as a contact of someone with a confirmed infection, but not required to isolated (if fully vaccinated or under 18).
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 are now legally required in some indoor settings again – and 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.