17th Dec Covid-19 update

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

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

“This variant is spreading so quickly, it is likely that everyone will come into contact with an infected person in the next few weeks….

The extent and impact of any Omicron COVID surge is to a large extent influenced by the choices and actions we take. It’s literally in our gift to save lives…

Without collective action now to drive up booster vaccination rates and to embrace other preventative action this winter, the pressure on GP, community and hospital services and social care services from COVID-19 and demand for specialist emergency care will be profound.

It will also have a major knock on effect on sustained efforts to bring down waiting lists for planned operations, appointments, assessments and treatments as we prioritise those with the greatest and most serious care needs.”

Read the letter in full, including advice on how you can help.
  • There has been a “Huge expansion of the booster programme this week, with all adults over 18 able to get their jab at a walk-in centre or book online” – 3 months from their second dose instead of 6. If you want to access a booster dose (or a 1st or 2nd dose) locally, please see our webpage on the 4 different routes to access vaccinations.
  • The government has introduced “Plan B”. You can read updated guidance on the 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.

Lastly before local data (and more detailed national data), it’s really important to note that numbers of people testing positive are rising very fast at the moment – the 93,045 to have been reported as testing positive today is a new record daily reporting total. Reported cases can be for different days, but of samples submitted on the 14th December, 87,619 people tested positive for the first time. This number isn’t necessarily complete yet but is a new record.

Again, as the heads of our local health and care organisations say: “This variant is spreading so quickly, it is likely that everyone will come into contact with an infected person in the next few weeks.” (obviously the fewer people you are in contact with the less likely this is to be true, but if you are attending large events…)

Gloucestershire – positive tests, hospital admissions, people in hospital

In the most recent data

  • 3,404 people living in Gloucestershire tested positive for the first time in the week to the 14th December – this is about 8% lower than last week (3,690). We’re yet to see the surge related to the Omicron variant that, for example, is clear in London. Please don’t be complacent however. This is still a very high number (by contrast, 2,424 people tested positive for the first time in the ‘second wave’ peak week to 4th January).
  • Case rates continue to be much lower for local people aged 60 and over (141 per 100,000), compared to those aged under 60 (715 per 100,000). 254 people aged 60 and over have tested positive in the past week, compared to 3,293 people aged under 60.
  • 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 53 people in Gloucester/Cheltenham hospital with Covid-19 as of 14th December – this has fallen from 62 on 7th December. However, the number in critical care is still high – 8 patients on the 14th December. On the 10th December it hit a peak of 11 patients. The same day, Dr Dave Windsor, the local consultant in intensive care, reported that “100% of the patients on our Critical Care Covid unit are unvaccinated. They are young. All between 30 – 57 years old.” There were also 11 covid-19 patients in local critical care locally last year on December 10th, before the number rose to a peak of 19 patients on the 23rd January.
  • Seven more people died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the most recent week we have data for – to 3rd December, one of them from Stroud district. Since August a total of 101 people who had lived in Gloucestershire have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate. Across Gloucestershire, a total of 1,293 people have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate, 233 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.
Source: dashboard for Gloucestershire

Rates across Gloucestershire are currently highest among 5-9 year olds More than 1 in every 100 5-9 year-olds also tested positive for the first time in the past week week (1.5% of all children of this age across Gloucestershire, or roughly one in every 67 children in the age group). 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 (or roughly 1 in every 125 people in the age group).

The chart below from Gloucestershire County council helps us understand how this is related to vaccination/booster rates. The red blocks and line represent case rates – higher at the top of the graph, lower at the bottom. Along the bottom are different age groups – and there are columns showing the proportion of each age group with a booster, two doses, or 1 dose of covid-19 vaccination. Where the booster (purple bars) rates are highest, the case rates are lowest (except for those aged 0-4). Case rates are highest for 5-14 year olds, with 5-11 year olds unable to be vaccinated and 12-15s only recently able to access vaccination producing the lowest rates of vaccination for any age group.

Source: Gloucestershire County Council

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 two weeks ago no longer does – admissions appear to be rising. A very simple trend line from May that is not a prediction or expectation suggests they won’t reach 100 patients a week before the end of the year, but the more recent trend is sharper

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. They key concern is pressure on beds – more Covid-19 patients means fewer beds for other patients, and if we really want to avoid the situation of the 22nd and 27th January this year, where 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 how local critical care workers are finding things, watch the recent video from Gloucestershire Royal.

Source: NHS England data, chart by James Beecher

Comparing the interactive map of cases for our local area, from last week and this week, shows a slighly worse picture – with fewer areas in the 200-399 people per 100,000 testing positive in the past week (blue). though there are also fewer areas with very high rates (over 800 per 100,000 – dark purple)

Numbers of new positive tests have been falling in Stroud town (44 people tested positive for the first time in the week to 11th December compared to 52 in the previous week, and 79 in the week to 6th November). The highest rate in the county is in Tredworth, where 71 people tested positive in the past week, a rate of 890 per 100,000 people living there.

Source: interactive map

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.

Vaccination uptake is high across Stroud district (compared to England):

  • 53.3% of people are estimated to have had a booster or a third primary dose – dramatically up from 44.2% last week. This includes more than 90% of the estimated population aged 70 or over. Across England, 44.1% of those aged 12+ have had a booster dose
  • 83% in Stroud district have had at least 2 doses (81.3% across England)
  • 88.7% in Stroud district have had at least 1 dose (89.1% across England)
  • Over half of 12-15s have had a first dose – 54% (46% accross England), and 45.8% of 16-17s have now had two doses (30.2% across England)
Source: page on vaccinations in Stroud district

Because everyone is talking about what will happen with Omicron, here are a few charts on that. It is too soon to know if and how Omicron is affecting growth rates locally (we can be fairly sure there are people being infected by this variant of the virus, but we don’t know how many). That numbers of people are currently not rising fast, suggests that either there is not much Omicron in the county yet, or that the high booster takeup is protecting against Omicron infections – it’s too soon to know but we will doubtless find out in the next few week.

Here’s a chart from London to show show how quickly numbers of people testing positive are rising – and explore the extent to which that is impacting on hospital admissions. The chart shows the rolling 7-day average of people testing positive, being admitted to hospital, and dying as a proportion of the peak value in January 2021. Numbers of people testing positive (red line) are close to 75% of the peak in January. However, the green line is represents one we are more concerned about – are people getting admitted to hospital as a result of infections. At the moment, the number of people being admitted to hospital/diagnosed in hospital with Covid-19 is around 20% of the January peak. It has risen in the past week fairly sharply, but since May this year (after those in priority groups have received both primary doses of vaccination) – hospital admissions and deaths have not risen in the same way numbers of people testing positive have (because people testing positive are largely younger, unvaccinated people, and where they are people who have been vaccinated these people are at less risk of hospital admission or death than they previously would have been).

We can look at similar data for Gloucestershire, as in the chart below. Here, the number of people testing positive in a week is 50% higher than at the peak in January 2021 – but the number of people being admitted/diagnosed with Covid-19 in hospital is 50% lower – though, as in London – possibly rising. The numbers of people dying are still much lower – at around 10% of the January 2021 peak.

It’s worth emphasising that while some people who are admitted to hospital with Covid-19 or test positive when in hospital, are in hospital for other reasons, most patients described as Covid-19 patients in the admissions data (upwards of 75%) are admitted because of Covid-19, and these numbers are rising in London (see the chart below).

As Oliver Johnson shows by comparing the share of positive results that have a feature that makes them likely to be Omicron (‘S-gene target failure’), the growth rate in England is the same as across London, just around 4 days behind. Doubling time for numbers of confirmed cases suspected to be Omicron is currently estimated at 2 days – this won’t stay the same forever, but even a week or two of doubling at this rate will mean a lot of infections.

National context

View a summary of the trends on the government dashboard at this link. This shows:

  • Numbers of people testing positive for the first time have risen dramatically: 477,2298 people in the 7 days to 17th December – a 39% increase on the previous week. It’s too soon to know how many hospital admissions/deaths this will lead to – but it is a very rapid rise (as you can see on the chart below).
  • The number of patients admitted to hospital/diagnosed in hospital has also risen after falling for week. 6,056 people were admitted/diagnosed with Covid-19 in hospital in the week to 13th December, 8.1% more than the previous weekly total.
  • The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital across the UK is also rising – from 7,365 on 11th December to 7,611 on the 15th (3.3% rise). This is 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.
  • If of course takes time for people to get sick and need to be admitted to hospital or die – so these numbers do not yet reflect recent rises in the number of people testing positive. However, it is still a good thing that – for now – the numbers of people dying within 28 days of a positive test is falling. 794 people died within 28 days of a positive test in the week to the 16th December. By this measure it seems daily numbers peaked on the 31st October (when 185 people died). Numbers of deaths 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 909 people died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the week to the 3rd December (the lowest weekly total since 15th October). As Oliver Johnson has noted, there have now been “111 consecutive days averaging over 100 [deaths within 28 days of a positive test]. Down 34% from when we started boosting, but still seems like a lot to me.” 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, but we should not minimise these numbers. Over 16,000 people have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificates since the 30th July.

The ONS say “In England, the trend in the percentage of people testing positive was uncertain in the week ending 11 December 2021; we estimate that 936,000 people in England had coronavirus (COVID-19), equating to around 1 in 60 people.” (essentially the same as last week). The ONS find considerable variation region – in London 2.1% of people were estimated to have the virus (more than 1 in 50) – 2% across the South West (1 in every 50 people) and South East, but 1.2 in the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber (nearer to 1 in every 100 people).

Across the UK as the whole, KCL/ZOE app team independently estimate around 1.17 million people had an active infection on the 17th December, based on symptom reporting and reporting of test results by up to 4.7 million app users. This is up from around 1.1 million last week.


Once again, John Burn Murdoch has a helpful update from Gauteng in South Africa on the impact of Omicron. Below are two tweets and charts . The key point is that “Deaths still climbing at same pace as past waves, but based on slowdown in cases we can be sure deaths will not get close to Delta peak” – good news. The first chart below is on a logarithmic scale to better show rates of growth – there’s a linear version below for those who want to more easily see how the raw numbers compare.

Whether people have access to testing strongly influences confirmed case numbers by continent, but across the world as a whole cases are rising rapidly again (mainly through cases identified in Europe, North America, and Africa)

The map below shows how Southern Africa, Europe, and the USA are the worst affected countries at the moment in terms of confirmed cases relative to population (again, bear in mind that some countries have low numbers of confirmed cases because people are not able to access testing even when they do have infections).


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 – people who are vaccinated are particularly like to experience cold-like symptoms including headache, runny nose, sore throat etc.

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.

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.