Key links around vaccinations, testing, and government guidance are included at the end of this update. If you have a question about any of this, please ask in our Facebook group.
The latest local data:
The total number of people who have tested positive and are occupying any hospital bed in Gloucestershire was 85 as of 26th April, down from 118 on the 19th April, and half the recent peak of 170 on the 2nd March. And there were once again no patients with COVID-19 in local critical care as of 26th April.
Sadly, another 10 people died with COVID-19 listed as a cause of death in the most recent week (to 16th April), 1 of them had lived in Stroud district. While we do not wish to diminish these deaths, it is welcome that the previous week’s high figure of 24 people has not been exceeded or repeated, and that the number is much lower.
These deaths bring the total number of people who have died with COVID-19 mentioned on their death cerficiate in Gloucestershire to over 1,500: 1,507. Across Stroud district the total is 284. The chart below shows how people have been less likely to die in the post-vaccination era. Many people have been admitted to hospital or diagnosed in hospital in recent months – but these are less likely to be severe cases of COVID-19.
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 (there is a gap in the county level data due to the Easter holidays, but you can see the Gloucestershire trend is likely very similar to the England one. Encouragingly, the prevalence of infections has continued to fall, to around 3.8% or 1 in every 25 people in the week to 17th April (and likely continuing to fall since – so probably currently at the lowest level since early December last year). This is obviously still high, but is down from 7.6% or 1 in every 13 people in the week to 3rd April.
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 – confirm the dramatic drop locally in Stroud district as nationally. Their latest estimate is around 3,570 people with the virus across the district (3.9%), less than half the highest ever total of around 8,800 people in Stroud district (or 7.3%) at the beginning of April. Regardless of the precise figure, broadly, the high level and new downward trend appear to be confirmed by several sources.
For a great summary of the national situation, see the ONS “Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest insights” page, which is updated with the latest possible data from the Office for National Statistics and other sources.
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), 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). Though lower numbers of people testing themselves due to symptoms / as contacts / etc mean ‘case ascertainment’ (ie, identification of infections) is lower, the ONS shows there really is a rapidly falling trend. In short, the data from people getting tested, ONS, and ZOE are all saying very similar things which helps us confirm the real situation in terms of trend, even if their precise estimates of prevalence differ.
Read more from the ONS infection survey on a weekly basis. The charts in the tweets below shows rates falling across the nations of the UK except Northern Ireland (where rates were lowest), and in all age groups – lowest among children.
The number of people currently in hospital with COVID-19 across the UK has fallen from a recent peak of 20,134 people on the 11th April, to 13,027 on the 28th April (also down from 16,447 last week on the 21st April). The number of patients in mechanical ventilation beds – 302 – has dropped from a peak of 385 on 12th April. Follow the link to the tweet below for breakdown by English region. Hospital admissions have fallen across the South West by over a quarter – 27% week on week!
1,150 people who had lived in the UK, died with COVID-19 listed on their death certificate in the most recent week of data – to 15th April, very similar to the previous week (1,135 – because of the time it takes for deaths to be registered, we are yet to see the impact of the recent fall in prevalence of the virus and hospital occupancy). The ONS find that “In the week ending 15 April 2022 (Week 15), 9,919 deaths were registered in England and Wales; of these deaths, 1,003 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, accounting for 10.1% of all deaths… Of the 1,003 deaths involving COVID-19, 64.2% (644 deaths) had this recorded as the underlying cause of death in Week 15, compared with 64.3% in Week 14.” (this is a lower percentage than previously in the pandemic when it was often around 90%. Other death certificate mentions refer to COVID-19 as a contributory cause to death).
14,267 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 191,277 people since the pandemic began (around 7.5%).
It’s also important to note that – unlike in previous waves in the pandemic, COVID-19 deaths are no longer pushing the number of deaths in a given week well above the average – indeed in the most recent week the number of deaths was lower (although affected by a bank holiday). That’s not to say we should be unconcerned about the numbers of COVID-19 deaths, but is undoubtedly a very different situation now to previously and we have vaccination to thank for that.
Sadly, the ONS this week released new data on the impact on life expectancy of the early period of the pandemic (as part of a period from 2018). There have been declines in life expectancy compared to the 2017-19 period, and these are worst in the most deprived areas.
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. around 4.7 million people tested positive in the week to 26th April, less than half the 10.1 million in the week to the 1st April. This is driven by falls in Asia, Europe, and South America.
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 2,560 per million is less than half that of the two worst affected countries – Peru (more than 6,378 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.
It’s also worth saying that we ought to consider ‘excess mortality’ when making comparisons (which will include COVID-19 deaths that haven’t been recorded as such, and the wider impact of the pandemic on healthcare capacity and other causes of death related to the restrictions introducted). The chart below shows how different countries have had very different levels of excess mortality – from Australia, Taiwan and Japan experiencing fewer deaths over the period than would be expected, through the UK at around 10% more deaths, and up to Poland – approaching 20% more detahs since January 2020.
One interesting example this week is Australia – where a particularly strict approach to control of SARS-COV-2 (and particular features of the country regarding geography and international trade, for example) meant that there were fewer deaths than normal throughout the pandemic, but the country is now back to a cumulative position broadly where it would have expected to be if the last few years had been ‘normal’.
Please refer to the NHS and government guidance on:
- Information about the “Spring booster” rollout in Gloucestershire on the local NHS website.
- Details regarding the testing system – including who can access tests
- 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
- Summary government “Guidance for living safely with respiratory infections, including coronavirus (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.