Before the local data for the past week, a reminder that though legal requirements around COVID-19 have been removed, there is still public health advice. Read guidance from the government on “Find out how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of coronavirus“, and specifically for “people with coronavirus (COVID-19) and their contacts.”
We share this for information about the government’s position, not as an endorsement. As we said when restrictions were lifted in July last year:
“please think of those of us still at risk – older people, people with compromised immune systems or other factors which make them vulnerable. Some people will welcome the ending of restrictions, but many others will have a very different idea of the ‘freedom’ that is accessible to them if numbers of infections are high [which they currently are]… and people they might interact with are being less cautious… we can still choose to act conscientiously and with compassion for others.“SCCR statement, July 19th 2021
Key to stopping the spread are: staying home if you are ill or test positive if you can, wearing the best quality and best fitting masks when in indoor/crowded locations, and either meeting outdoors, or ventilation/clearing air with fresh air when mixing indoors. Here’s a useful article on the latest knowledge around transmission.
- Numbers of people with infections, and in hospital with Covid-19 are rising across the UK, and the same is happening locally in Stroud district and Gloucestershire – around 1 in every 30 people had infections in the most recent estimate for the county.
- This week, it has been 2 years since the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic, and the reported death toll from Covid passed 6 million people in the same week.
- Numbers of infections are rising globally – driven by increases in Europe and Asia. There is a particularly rapid outbreak and high numbers of deaths occuring in Hong Kong.
Weekly data for Gloucestershire
In the most recent data:
- There were 141 people in Gloucestershire hospitals with Covid-19 as of 8th March 2022, down from 174 on the 28th February. This is 125 in the ‘acute’ hospital (Gloucester and Cheltenham) – down from a peak of 151 on the 28th February, and another 16 in community hospitals, down from 27 on the 3rd March. In the week to 6th March 132 people with admitted or diagnosed in hospital with Covid-19, down from 162 in the week to 27th February.
- Thirteen people who had lived in Gloucestershire sadly died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in the most recent week we have data for – to 25th February (three of them had lived in Stroud district). A total of 86 people who had lived in Gloucestershire have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in 2022 so far, of a total 1,407 people who have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate since the pandemic began (259 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.
- The ONS estimate that 3.4% of people would have tested positive if everyone in the county has been tested in the week to 6th March representing about 1 in 30 people. This is down from around 1 in 20 at 4.7% the week before. ONS estimates are based on small samples of randomly selected people, so they provide broad lower and upper limited – for this week saying the true value is likely to be at most as high as 1 in 20 people or at least as high as 1 in 40 people.
- 4,137 people living in Gloucestershire tested positive in the week to the 8th March. This is high, 36% higher than the previous week (3,128) and approaching half the level for this ‘wave’s peak when 9,770 people tested positive in the week to 4th January 2022. Weekly totals had been falling consistently since the 1st February, but have been rising consistently since the 27th February. PCR positivity rates (the proportion of people who get a test which returns a positive result) are also rising, another indication that prevalence is higher than the number of people testing positive imples. In the week to 4th March, 17.2% of all people who were tested by PCR received a positive result, up from the already high 15.1% in the week to 25th February.
The first chart below shows compares the numbers of people testing positive over a rolling 7 day period across Stroud district, Gloucestershire, and England, by converting them to rates relative to population. In the period to 5th March 2022, these rates are clearly rising locally and nationally. Locally they are around 1 in every 175-180 people testing positive in a week, and nationally a little lower at around 1 in every 270 people. However, not everyone gets tested. The ONS estimate that 1 in every 25 people in England would have tested positive in the same week, and interesting have a lower rate for Gloucestershire: 1 in every 30 (see second chart below).
Estimates by the ZOE app / Kings College London team show a different pattern, estimating that cases had risen to new peak of around 6,000 people in Stroud district (or around 1 in every 20 people), but – at the time other sources identify an increase, ZOE shows an apparant peak and small decline.
The chart below presents data which is about attempting to understand the same things – how many people have the virus at any one time and what the trend is – but through a different method. The ONS randomly select people to complete PCR tests, and then make population-wide estimates based on the results. The chart below is the data for Gloucestershire. Instead of a rolling average rate per 100,000 people, there is a percentage, which is arrived at for a week at a time. You can hopefully identify a roughly similar pattern of two peaks, but sadly there is a gap around Christmas, which means the height of the peak then may have been missed.
The map below is also from the ONS infection survey, shows the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 is higher in Gloucestershire and neighbouring areas (and some areas in the South East) – at around 3.4% or around 1 in every 30 people, in context of rates around the UK. The rate in Gloucestershire is no longer expected to be among the areas with higher rates, and the highest are currently estimated to be in parts of Northern Ireland at over 8% or around 1 in every 12 people.
The chart below shows a comparison between total hospital beds occupied by patients confirmed to have Covid-19 against the numbers dying with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificates. Thankfully, numbers in hospitals have dropped a little in the most recent week – but they are still high. With few restrictions and the easily spread Omicron variant, we see that weekly numbers of admissions to hospital are close to the levels of previous ‘peaks’ – and yet numbers of people dying per week are much lower – thanks both to vaccination and – for more recent weeks – due to Omicron being a slighly less severe variant too.
While the number of patients with confirmed Covid-19 in Gloucestershire hospitals is very high, and not far from previous peaks, the number in critical care is lower and in no way comparable to last winter’s peak. As of 8th March 2022 there were again no active Covid-19 patients in a critical care bed in the county, compared to a peak of 19 on the 23rd January 2021. However, there were three Covid-19 patients in critical care as recently as 6th March. It is clear that people can still end up very severely ill because of this disease.
Importantly, while it used to be the case that most people in hospital with confirmed covid-19 were being treated primarily ‘for’ covid, it’s now around half this, and half patients being primarily treated for something else. There is variation around the regions but the pink line in the chart below for the South West shows how a lot of the increase in bed occupany locally has been around people not being treated primarily for Covid. There is no cause for complacency here as numbers being treated primarily for Covid are still high, are rising rather than falling at least in the South West, and those being treated primarily for something else can still have their treatment complicated by covid. Finally, infection control with covid is really important in hospitals because of the presence of people at risk, but is harder than ever with Omicron – which may explain some of these figures (with spread happening in hospitals), but also underlines why we want to try to reduce spread, as the fewer people who enter hospital with covid, the easier it is to control the spread there.
You can view daily numbers for Gloucestershire, or districts within it, on the government’s dashboard. You can also enter your postcode into the government’s dashboard to get more data on your local area, or see the interactive map of areas – zoom in to get counties, district, and settlements.
Nationally, numbers of cases, deaths within 28 days of a positive test (shown below) and deaths where COVID-19 is mentioned on the death certificate (a more robust but also delayed measure), and the number of people being admitted to hospital had all been falling until recently – but there are now clear rises in the number of people testing positive and being admitted to hospital – and worrying signs that the numbers of deaths have at minimum stopped falling.
The number of people currently in hospital with COVID-19 across the UK wss 11,944 on the 10th March, and has been rising since the 6th March (when it reached a recent low of 10,763 (the recent peak was 20,023 on 10th January). More encouragingly, the number of patients in mechanical ventilation beds – 253, is down on last week (264) and the lowest number since 23rd June 2021 when there were 246 patients on ventilation.
878 people who had lived in the UK, died with COVID-19 listed on their death certificate in the most recent week of data – to 25th February (this means it at least contributed to the death, and in a majority of cases – across the pandemic 9 in 10 cases – was the main underlying cause of death). This number has fallen for four weeks running, to about half the peak of 1,673 in the week to 21st January. However, in the week to 11th March, 730 people have died within 28 days of a positive test, which is up on the week before (710 people).
In addition to the chart above for England you can view a summary of the trends for the UK on the government dashboard at this link (you can also explore the data by nation, region, or local authority area).
The chart below compares ONS and ZOE estimates of prevalence with the implied prevalence of the virus if daily confirmed cases are multiplied by a ratio (analysis by Paul Mainwood). As you can see, there has been a really good match in the past… but less so recently. Paul Mainwood says: “The stable ascertainment to mid-Jan (through Omicron and test scarcity panics) means projecting prevalence from daily cases was reliable; but not after mid-Jan. In contrast ZOE was fooled by Omicron, undercalling the peak by nearly a half, but detected turning points since then.” All three aproaches are now detecting a rise – though this is strongst, fastest, and highest in the ONS estimate.
Across the UK as the whole, KCL/ZOE app team independently estimate around 2.4 million people had an active infection on the 13th March, based on symptom reporting and reporting of test results by up to 4.7 million app users. This is up from 2.2 million last week and back to the level of the week before. ZOE estimate around 220,000 people are being newly infected every day (up from around 150,000 last week).
This week we also had “Findings from the REACT coronavirus monitoring programme, based on almost 95,000 swab tests taken between 8 February and 1 March, show[ing] that around 1 in 35 [people were] infected during this period, or 2.88% of people. This is the second highest the study has recorded since it began testing in May 2020, but represents a drop from previous findings when 1 in 23 had the virus in January, or 4.41%.” “Nearly three times as many were testing positive in the youngest age group (aged 5-11, 4.69%) compared with the oldest (aged 75+, 1.68%). However, infections were found to be falling in children and younger adults under the age of 54, while they were flat or possibly rising in those aged 55 and above.”
Rising numbers of infections are driven by the “BA.2” sublineage of the Omicron variant, which appears to be spread even more easily.
In terms of the hospital situation – the change in admissions and occupancy is clear across all regions of England – though ventilation numbers are not as concerning everywhere (high percentage increases being in the context of low numbers).
Finally on national context, the Financial Times produced analysis showing that Covid-19 “still elevated respiratory deaths by around 50 per cent compared to a typical flu season” in recent months, even though an individual’s risk of dying once infected is now similar and perhaps lower than for flu. This is because the virus spreads so easily: “A virus can be less lethal on a *per-infection* basis but still cause more deaths overall if it infects more people”, as John Burn-Murdoch noted in a thread summarising an important article on this topic. There are important points to consider alongside this – death is not the only negative outcome from a Covid infection (there is Long Covid in particular to consider), and “we know Covid is not only a threat during winter. If that red line bumps upwards again in the coming months (more on this in a moment…), that would further increase mortality risk relative to flu”.
Whether people have access to testing strongly influences confirmed case numbers by continent, but across the world as a whole cases are also rising having been falling until recently. 11.37 million people tersted positive in the week to March 9th, having fallen to 10.64 in the week to March 1st – below half the peak of 24 million people in the week to the 24th January. Cases are rising again in Asia (where they have hit a new peak and are still rising) and Europe.
Numbers of people dying with their death attributed to Covid-19 are currently highest in Hong Kong, Tonga, Brunei, and Denmark. In all these countries more than 50 people in every million have died just in the past week. The situation in Hong Kong is particularly bad, with 259 people per million dying in the week to March 12th (for context, the UK rate is around 11 peoeple in every million in the most recent week). In the current ‘wave’ in Hong Kong, “Almost 3,000 people have died and more than half a million have been infected”. There has been an explosion of infections in care homes – with government datashowing a vaccination rate of only 25% in February, and this rises to just over 53% of those over 80 as a whole.
It is important to note that attribution of deaths to Covid-19 is difficult, particularly in countries with limited access to testing. Further, there has been a wider impact of the pandemic on deaths. The Our World in Data site has an excellent explainer on ‘excess deaths’ during the pandemic, which includes the following chart, showing the central estimate reaching around 20 million in the week the reported covid death toll reached 6 million.
Making comparisons between countries with regard to death rates is difficult, in part because of differing ability to record deaths, but also because of wider differences between countries such as what proportion of the population is most at risk. Nonetheless, it’s important to understand how badly some places have been affected. The UK’s death rate of 2,390 per million is less than half that of the two worst affected countries – Peru (more than 6,340 deaths per million people) and Bulgaria (more than 5,240 deaths per million people), and there are more than 20 countries with worst reported death tolls relative to population.
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, and wash your hands regularly – and please be respectful of requests from people most at risk with regard to their particular needs.
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.