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.
Before the local data, one quick point regarding the global data:
This week the World Health Organisation issued their estimate of the true impact of the pandemic on deaths – suggesting nearly 15 million more people around the world died than would have been expected over two years (a 13% increase). Read more on the World Health Organization (WHO) website (and in the international section near the end of this update). This isn’t the first estimate of total death toll to be higher than the official count of directly covid-related deaths of 5.4 million. The Economist’s estimate is around 21 million. As the WHO say: “Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years. Excess mortality includes deaths associated with COVID-19 directly (due to the disease) or indirectly (due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society). Deaths linked indirectly to COVID-19 are attributable to other health conditions for which people were unable to access prevention and treatment because health systems were overburdened by the pandemic. The estimated number of excess deaths can be influenced also by deaths averted during the pandemic due to lower risks of certain events, like motor-vehicle accidents or occupational injuries.”
The latest local data:
The total number of people who have tested positive and are occupying any hospital bed in Gloucestershire was 72 as of 3rd May, down from 86 on the 27th April, and the lowest number since the 4th February (and second lowest number in 2022). There were once again no patients with COVID-19 in local critical care as of 3rd May, though there has been at least one patient in the unit during the week.
Sadly, another 13 people died with COVID-19 listed as a cause of death in the most recent week (to 22nd April), 2 of them had lived in Stroud district.
These deaths bring the total number of people who have died with COVID-19 mentioned on their death cerficiate in Gloucestershire to 1,520. Across Stroud district the total is 286. The chart below shows how people have been less likely to die in the post-vaccination era (underplaying this because in the absence of restrictions and with more transmissable variants, far more people have been infected – but are less likely to be hospitalised, let alone to experience the severest symptoms). 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 chart below shows the hospital occupancy data for 2022 only, and also breaks down patients between those in ‘acute’ hospitals (mainly Gloucester but also including Cheltenham) – and those in ‘community’ hospitals (where they have likely only just been diagnosed and will be moved to Gloucester). This more clearly shows that the recent trend is of decline approaching lowest levels for the year so far.
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, and recent bank holiday, 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 2.9% or 1 in every 35 people in the week to 1st May (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 to less than half the 7.6% or 1 in every 13 people one month ago (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, though their latest estimate is around 4,200 people with the virus across the district (3.5%), a small rise on last week’s estimate of 3,570 people with the virus across the district (3.0%), but still less than half the highest ever total of around 8,800 people in Stroud district (or 7.3%) at the beginning of April. Best to be wary of drawing too much from this small increase just yet (it may be a function of the small sample the ZOE numbers are based on rather than anything else).
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 (Paul estimates around 13% compared to around 50% until 2022), 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. The drop in ONS prevalence is apparently accelerating, falling around 6% a day.
Read more from the ONS infection survey on a weekly basis. The charts in the tweets below shows rates falling across all the nations of the UK, 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 10,763 on the 5th May (also down from 16,447 last week on the 21st April). The number of patients in mechanical ventilation beds – 253 – has dropped from a peak of 385 on 12th April (lowest number since 10th March 2022). 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!
1,185 people who had lived in the UK, died with COVID-19 listed on their death certificate in the most recent week of data – to 22nd April, very similar to the previous week (1,150 – 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 22 April 2022 (Week 16), 10,680 deaths were registered in England and Wales; of these deaths, 1,042 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, accounting for 9.8% of all deaths… Of the 1,042 deaths involving COVID-19 in Week 16, 62.3% (649 deaths) had this recorded as the underlying cause of death, compared with 64.2% in Week 15.” (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).
15,436 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 192,464 people since the pandemic began (around 8% of total covid deaths have been in 2022).
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: “Year-to-date there have been 181,841 deaths recorded which is 2% lower than the 2015-19 average”
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 3.6 million people tested positive in the week to 6th May, around a third the 10.1 million in the week to the 1st April. This is driven by falls in Asia, Europe, and South America – case numbers appear to be rising across North 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 (including because of testing capacity), but also because of wider differences between countries such as what proportion of the population is most at risk. The chart below from the BBC shows selected countries from a World Health Organisation report looking in detail at ‘excess deaths’ above those that might have been expected for 2020 and 2021 in selected countries – showing Peru, Russia, South Africa and India as among the worst affected, the UK close to the Global Average, and China, Japan and Australia among those countries with fewer deaths than expected.
The BBC articles notes: “The Covid pandemic has caused the deaths of nearly 15 million people around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates. That is 13% more deaths than normally expected over two years. The WHO believes many countries undercounted the numbers who died from Covid – only 5.4 million were reported.”
Francois Balloux has a useful and balanced article in the Observer discussing the WHO report – which notes “according to the WHO report, the UK has fared fairly unremarkably. An estimated 109 excess deaths per 100,000 people places it at 56th in the global ranking of “best performing” countries, and middle of the table relative to the European Union, coming 15th out of the 27 EU member states. The UK’s estimated excess death toll is below Germany’s and Italy’s, but above France’s. According to the WHO estimates, Germany significantly underestimated Covid deaths, France overestimated them and the UK got it about right”.
The article also argues: “The [WHO] report paints a complex picture supporting no single straightforward narrative. Which shouldn’t be too surprising. A single number for each country is unlikely to capture the full complexity of vastly different socioeconomic situations and two years of often inconsistent policies. Lower-middle income countries in eastern Europe and South America have been particularly badly affected, probably because of a relatively unfavourable age pyramid, low vaccination coverage and disruption to their economy and healthcare systems. Richer countries tended to do better overall, with the exception of the US, which fared quite poorly with 144/100,000 excess deaths.
A few countries kept excess deaths close to, or even below zero, including Australia, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, Mongolia and New Zealand. Being rich and geographically isolated helps…
the main thrust of the WHO report boils down to reducing inequality, improving health and providing a robust social and healthcare system offering the best pandemic preparedness. That would be money well spent, even if the next one takes a while to hit.”
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.