Rates of people currently infected with SARS-COV-2 are as high as they have ever been, both locally and nationally. But before a fuller update on data locally and nationally, four important news updates:
- “Spring boosters” are now being rolled out to those most at risk from COVID-19: people aged 75 and over, care home residents, and people with weakened immune systems. There is information about the rollout in Gloucestershire on the local NHS website. This covers the different systems for accessing a booster if you are eligible (and more detail on eligibility). You can: wait for you GP to invite you (please don’t call them to book a COVID booster) to one of the 11 community vaccination centres across the county or your surgery (in some instances), or you can “book an appointment at one of 10 community pharmacies across the county using the national booking system [NBS] telephone number, 119, or via the NBS website“
- Access to testing has changed dramatically this week – community PCR testing sites such as at Stratford Park have been closed, and lateral flow tests are only available free to people most at risk and some work roles. Read more about the new testing system – including who can access tests and what people with symptoms should do, via the NHS website, covering:
- The government has issued new “Guidance for living safely with respiratory infections, including coronavirus (COVID-19)“, providing the advice to
- The BBC covered the Immensa Scandal where people locally and across the South West were given false negative PCR results due to failings at a privately run testing laboratory leading to higher rates of COVID in Stroud district, Gloucestershire and beyond. The coverage features James Beecher from SCCR, and the story of Pam Bembenek, a grandmother who was living in a care home near Dursley, who died from the virus five days after she caught it, most likely from a care worker who had received a false negative test result from the Immensa lab.
The latest local data:
- The estimated proportion of people with an infection are at their highest ever levels at the moment- around 1 in 13 people in the most recent estimate for England, and a little higher at 1 in 12 across Gloucestershire. This data is only up to the week ending 26th March. Numbers of people testing positive show signs of a positive peak around that time – but now free access to testing in the community has ended (see below), we may be better off relying on estimates from the ONS infection survey of a large and representative sample of the population.
- The total number of people who have tested positive and are occupying any hospital bed in Gloucestershire is 153, up from 136 last week but below the peak for this ‘wave’ of 174 (61% of the highest ever number – 251 on 19th January 2021 – but the number in critical care – five patients – is a much lower proportion of the peak – 19%).
- Sadly, another 19 people died with COVID-19 listed as a cause of death in the most recent week (to 18th March), 7 of them had lived in Stroud district. This is the highest weekly total number of deaths of people who had lived in Stroud district since 12th Feb 2021, and there have only been 9 weeks since the pandemic began in which a higher number of people died with COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate
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… [Even when there aren’t legal requirements,] we can still choose to act conscientiously and with compassion for others.“SCCR statement, July 19th 2021
Key to stopping infections being passed on 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 if possible, or ventilation/clearing air with fresh air when mixing indoors.
Charts and more detail:
- The Office for National Statistics produce estimates for the percentage of people that would test positive in a week, based on a large scale PCR-test based ‘infection survey’ designed to represent the population. The chart below shows recent data for Gloucestershire and England. In the most recent week, across Gloucestershire the ONS estimate 8.64% people would have tested positive or 1 in 12 people, across England, 7.56% or 1 in 13 people. For both areas this is the highest ever estimate, though estimates were not made at the county-level including Gloucestershire over Christmas. With the changes to access to testing, we will be using this ONS chart as a guide to how widespread the virus is and the trends, rather than ‘confirmed cases’ – as these will only reflect the shrinking number of people getting tested/reporting results.
For possibly the last time this week, we also present a chart of the rates of people testing positive are also very high (pretty much as high as ever) but now appear to have peaked in Stroud district and to be approaching peaks in Gloucestershire and across England. Around 1 in every 75 people in Stroud district tested positive in the week to the 20th March. That these numbers are lower than the ONS estimates reflects the reality that not everyone gets tested (as well as the fact that people would test positive for a little over a week on average). The apparent peak may not be a sign of a new long-term trend, as the ZOE estimate below indicates.
Estimates by the ZOE app / Kings College London team, based on reporting of symptoms and test results by app users, more up to date but less representative of the population than ONS – may hint at what is to come, with active cases rising rapidly again after a short dip, to a new highest ever total of around 8,800 people in Stroud district (or 7.3%, around 1 in every 14 people, similar but a ever so slightly lower than the ONS estimates for Gloucestershire and England).
2. The total number of people who are occupying any hospital bed in Gloucestershire and have tested positive for SARS-COV-2 was 153 on the 29th March, up from 136 last week but below the peak for this ‘wave’ of 174 (61% of the highest ever number – 251 on January 19th 2021. However, the comparisons isn’t entirely fair as a larger proportion now are primarily being treated for something other than COVID-19, see national data below).
Sadly, people are still dying with COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate (as at least a contributory cause if not, as in most cases, the main case of death), and though in lower numbers each week than previous waves – it’s still a significant number of people.
One way to better understand the hospital situation locally is to look at numbers of patients in critical care. The highest number of patients with COVID-19 in local critical care was 19 on the 23rd January 2021. More recently, on the 10th December 2021, there were 11 COVID-19 patients in critical care. The most recent data shows a lower but still concerning number of 5 patients in critical care as of 28th March 2022 (26% of the peak, rather than the 61% implied by patients in hospital who have tested positive alone).
3. A total of 125 people who had lived in Gloucestershire have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate in 2022 so far, of a total 1,446 people who have died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate since the pandemic began (268 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.
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.
Paul Mainwood’s chart below compares different estimates for the total number of people with the virus at any one time, and the trend. This uses the ONS ‘infection survey’ based on a large representative sample of people being tested (green), ZOE estimates based from users of the Covid Symptom Study app reporting test results and symptoms (blue), and the total numbers of people confirmed to test positive can also be multiplied up to match these other estimates based on a historic ratio (red). All three aproaches show a similar steep rise, with Paul Mainwood now predicting a peak on/about 26th March.
Read more from the ONS infection survey on a weekly basis, they include a map, embedded below. The map currently shows Gloucestershire as being among a number of areas with a higher rate than most parts of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland – along with almost all of Scotland.
The number of people currently in hospital with COVID-19 across the UK has risen to 19,575 on the 31st March, nearly double the recent low of 10,763 on 6th March, and approaching this waves peak of 20,023 on 10th January 2022. On the 12th March, the number of patients in mechanical ventilation beds – 252, was the lowest number since 23rd June 2021 when there were 246 patients on ventilation. However, the number has sadly (and predictably) risen to 356 as of the 31st March. The charts and numbers below show the picture in England, with rising in occupancy in all regions – with a rise in deaths following.
A higher proportion of people in hospital with COVID are being treated primarily for something else than previously BUT as the charts below show, the number of people being primarily treated for COVID is rising too (including to a peak since July 2021 across the South West).
High numbers of infections also affect health services in another important way – causing higher NHS staff absence.
826 people who had lived in the UK, died with COVID-19 listed on their death certificate in the most recent week of data – to 18th March (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 had fallen for five weeks running, to less than half the peak of 1,673 in the week to 21st January, but rose slightly this week, from 820 in the previous week (and 814 the week before that). 12,688 people who had lived in the UK died with COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate as at least contributing to their death in 2022 so far, of a total 186,921 people since the pandemic began.
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).
Whether people have access to testing strongly influences confirmed case numbers by continent, but across the world as a whole cases are falling having been rising again until recently. 10.15 million people tested positive in the week to 1st April, a significant drop since 12.28 million people tersted positive in the week to March 16th. This is driven by falls in Asia, but numbers of people testing positive appear to be starting to fall across Europe.
Making comparisons between countries with regard to total death rates over the course of the whole pandemic 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 2,430 per million is less than half that of the two worst affected countries – Peru (more than 6,363 deaths per million people) and Bulgaria (more than 5,300 deaths per million people), and there are more than 20 countries with worst reported death tolls relative to population. Not all countries are shown on the chart below, but a selection of countries with lower death tolls and data considered to be accuate are. By following the links, you can construct your own charts.
Please refer to the NHS guidance on:
- what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19,
- what to do if you’ve been in close contact with someone with COVID-19,
- how to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19
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 have making life difficult for many people. We’re also volunteers with no public health expertise – collating and signposting to other sources for guidance and authoritative data.
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.