24th Dec Covid-19 update

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

Before this weeks summary of the local and national data, we extend seasons greetings to all Stroud district residents. Please read our statement on the current situation here, which includes a link to this Open Letter from the heads of local Health and Care organisations – from which the following quote is taken. Please take care over the coming weeks, but we hope you are able to enjoy time with your loved ones too.

“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… 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.”

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. We’ll be less able to respond until the new year – but we will be checking in. Many queries can be answered by “The 119 service [which] will continue to operate on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve from 7am to 6pm, and Christmas Day and New Year’s Day from 7am to 5pm. On other days, the service will operate from 7am to 11pm.” 

Gloucestershire – positive tests, hospital admissions, people in hospital

In the most recent data

  • 4,557 people living in Gloucestershire tested positive for the first time in the week to the 21st December – this is the highest ever weekly figure – twice the level of the peak in January 2021 (when 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 (183 per 100,000 – approx one in every 550 people), compared to those aged under 60 (849 per 100,000 – approx one in every 120 people). 330 people aged 60 and over have tested positive in the past week (254 in the previous week), compared to 3,909 people aged under 60 (3,293 in the previous week).
  • 85 people were admitted to Gloucester/Cheltenham hospital with Covid-19, or diagnosed in the hospital in the week to the 19th December. This is approaching double the number admitted in the week to 19th November (45 – double would be 90).
  • There were 72 people in Gloucester/Cheltenham hospital with Covid-19 as of 21st December – again, this is a big rise from the 44 one month ago on the 21st November
  • There are 2 Covid-19 patients in local critical care beds as of the 21st December. We cannot be complacent about critical care capacity given the hospital admission numbers above, but we can hope that we avoid the situation of January 2021 when there were at most 19 Covid-19 patients in critical care and no spare critical care capacity on several days.
  • Three more people died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the most recent week we have data for – to 10th December, one of them from Stroud district. Since August a total of 104 people who had lived in Gloucestershire have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate. Across Gloucestershire, a total of 1,296 people have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate, 234 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, which we know can be particularly difficult at this time of year.

The chart below compares numbers of people testing positive, being admitted to hospital, or dying within 28 days of a positive test compared to the peak week in January. Here, the number of people testing positive in a week is double what it was at the peak in January 2021 – but the number of people being admitted/diagnosed with Covid-19 in hospital is at 42% of the peak – though rising. The numbers of people dying are still much lower – at around 10% of the January 2021 peak (but we shouldn’t be complacent about the impact of hospitalisations, and of infections themselves which can cause long-term symptoms/impacts on health).

Chart by James Beecher using data from the excellent site

We can do the same analysis for England – where the picture is similar, though cases (having been higher in January) are not yet double the January peak (but headed there fast, and past 50% more than the peak week). Hospital admissions are lower compared to the peak across England – at around a fifth of the peak.

To get possible insight into where we might be headed in England/Gloucestershire, the below chart from Gauteng where the Omicron data has been coming in for longer – cases are now falling, admissions are beginning to turn and – in John Burn Murdoch’s words, “Cases climbed to 90% of their Delta peak, but admissions peaked at 50% and deaths will peak below 50%, demonstrating how immunity — both acquired since Delta, and differentially present among Omicron cases — reduces rates of severe disease.”

Source: John Burn Murdoch on twitter

Returning to Gloucestershire, the chart below shows rates of people testing positive for the first time for over and under 60s, and how they have changed over the past month. As you can see, rates have been constently lower among those aged 60 and over (most likely to be fully vaccinated and with booster takeup over 90%), than for those under 60 (least likely to be vaccinated, and also more likely to be working, studying or attending school, in indoor environments where the virus can be easily spread)

Source: dashboard for Gloucestershire

Rates across Gloucestershire are currently highest among 25-29 year olds More than 1 in every 100 25-29 year-olds tested positive for the first time in the past week week (1.2% of all people of this age across Gloucestershire, or roughly one in every 84 people in the age group). Rates are lowest for those aged 85-89 (0.08% or all people in this age group tested positive for the first time in the past week)

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 so far, 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 (as they did after the spread of the virus caused during the Immensa scandal) before the end of the year, but the more recent trend is sharper (and nationally hospital admission numbers have been increasing too)

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 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. There were 2 Covid-19 patients in local critical care beds as of the 21st December, and 9 unoccupied beds. We can cautiously welcome this – but sadly know that the reason there are fewer patients in critical care could be because people have died, rather than because they have left the critical care unit to recuperate.

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 only Rodborough and Thrupp with a rate between 200-399 people per 100,000 testing positive in the past week (blue). Everywhere else in the county has higher rates. The rates are highest in Berkeley, Dursley, Nailsworth, Tuffley and – highest of all – Upton St Leonards & Hardwicke (where around 1 in every 100 people in the area tested positive for the first time in the week to 18th December).

Numbers of new positive tests had been falling in Stroud town, but rose sharply in the week to 18th December, with 67 people testing positive for the first time – up 44% on the previous week.

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 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):

  • 67.1% of people are estimated to have had a booster or a third primary dose – dramatically up from 44.2% a fortnight ago (a phenomenal effort by those involved in the vaccination rollout locally to ensure those who wanted to take up the offer could do so). This includes more than 90% of the estimated population aged 65 or over. Across England, 55.1% of those aged 12+ have had a booster dose
  • 83.6% in Stroud district have had at least 2 doses (81.9% across England)
  • 89.2% in Stroud district have had at least 1 dose (89.6% across England)
  • Over half of 12-15s have had a first dose – 58.7% (47.5% accross England), and 56.4% of 16-17s have now had two doses (37.1% across England)
Source: page on vaccinations in Stroud district

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: 678,165 people in the 7 days to 23rd December – a 53% increase on the previous week. This is a very rapid rise (as you can see on the chart below), consistent with what we’ve expected from how Omicron has spread in other countries .
  • The number of patients admitted to hospital/diagnosed in hospital has also risen after falling for weeks. 6,299 people were admitted/diagnosed with Covid-19 in hospital in the week to 19th December, 4.4% more than the previous weekly total. This total is rising less steeply, but we now admissions always lag infections as it takes time for people to get sick enough to need hospital.
  • 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. 784 people died within 28 days of a positive test in the week to the 23rd December. By this measure it seems daily numbers peaked on the 31st October (185 people died that day). Daily deaths have been under 100 since 18th December. 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 887 people died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the week to the 10th December (the lowest weekly total since the week to the 1st October). 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 percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) increased in the week ending 16 December 2021; we estimate that 1,202,300 people in England had COVID-19… equating to around 1 in 45 people.” (up from 1 in 60 last week).

Across the UK as the whole, KCL/ZOE app team independently estimate around 1.6 million people had an active infection on the 23rd December, based on symptom reporting and reporting of test results by up to 4.7 million app users. This is up from around 1.2 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 and excess deaths still rising, but based on timing of peak will not come close to Delta levels” (probably below 50% of peak) – better news than it could be.

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.