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 48 as of 17th May, down from 68 last week (-30%). The day before, the number of 41 patients was the lowest number in 2022, and the lowest since 26th October 2021 when there were 44 patients in local hospitals. There were two patients with COVID-19 in local critical care as of 17th May, however.
3 people died with COVID-19 listed as a cause of death in the most recent week (to 6th May), none of them lived in the Stroud district. This is first week where there have been no deaths with COVID-19 listed on the death certificate in Stroud district in 2022, and the lowest number of weekly deaths mentioning COVID-19 across Gloucestershire in 2022 (3 people died in the week to 31st December 2021). While we do not wish to diminish the impact of any deaths on loved ones, that the numbers of people dying are much lower is obviously welcome news.
These deaths bring the total number of people who have died with COVID-19 mentioned on their death cerficiate in Gloucestershire to 1,538. Across Stroud district the total is 289. 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 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 are gaps in the county level data due to the bank holidays, but you can see the Gloucestershire trend is generally fairly similar to the England one). Encouragingly, the prevalence of infections has continued to fall, to around 1.9% or 1 in every 55 people across England in the week to 13th May. In Gloucestershire the rate is expected to be a little higher at 2.12% or around 1 in every 45 people – much lower than it has been, but still around the high level of prevalence of virus in the community after the Immensa scandal in late October last year. With new sublineages of Omicron (known as BA.4 and BA.5) potentially on the rise, the delay in the time between the time the ONS survey is conducted and when results are published means prevalence may not be falling as fast or at all anymore – we’ll need to wait and see.
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 across Gloucestershire and nationally. Their latest estimate is around 2,300 people with the virus across the district (1.8%), down around 200 people from last week and way down from the highest ever total of around 8,800 people in Stroud district (or 7.3%) at the beginning of April.
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 – as referred to above), 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. Indeed, there is very little difference between these trends (nor with ZOE, though their estimates appear to be coming in late compared to other sources). 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 all the nations of the UK, and in all age groups – lowest among children, where they are approaching 1 in 100 for those in school years 7 to 11. There are signs that the falls are levelling off, both across age groups and regions (there isn’t much difference regionally, but the South West where 2.2% of people have current infections is now the highest level, while the rate is lowest in the West Midlands at 1.5%.
With most of the population having been infected by SARS-COV-2, the severity of reinfections (or, alternatively, the protection offered by immunity from an infection either alone or combined with that from vaccination) becomes important. The chart below shows how the percentage of reinfections following a previous hospital admission that lead to a further admission has dropped from around 5% to well below 1% – around 0.1%.
The number of people currently in hospital with COVID-19 across the UK was 6,729 on the 19th May – down from a recent peak of 20,134 people on the 11th April, and from 8,475 on the 12th May a week ago. The number of patients in mechanical ventilation beds – 194 – has dropped from a peak of 385 on 12th April (and is now the lowest number since 181 on the 21st September 2021). Follow the link to the tweet below for breakdown by English region. Hospital admissions have fallen across the South West by 8% week on week.
Despite the improved COVID-19 situation in hospitals, hospitals are still dealing with the fallout from the pandemic and over pressures, with higher than ever numbers facing appalling waits for A&E treatment.
836 people who had lived in the UK, died with COVID-19 listed on their death certificate in the most recent week of data – to 6th May, a dramatic drop on the previous week (1,248, we are seeing the impact of the recent fall in prevalence of the virus and hospital occupancy). You can see the clear drop in daily deaths on the chart below, now well under 100 a day for over a week. The ONS find that:
- “In the week ending 6 May 2022 (Week 18), 9,941 deaths were registered in England and Wales; of these deaths, 735 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, accounting for 7.4% of all deaths.”
- “Of the 735 deaths involving COVID-19 in Week 18, 64.5% (474 deaths) had this recorded as the underlying cause of death, compared with 65.8% in Week 17.”
- “The number of deaths registered in the UK in the week ending 6 May 2022 (Week 18) was 11,307, which was 4.7% above the five-year average (505 excess deaths); of these deaths, 836 involved COVID-19, which was 412 less than in Week 17.”
20,317 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 194,550 people since the pandemic began (around 10% 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 for the year. This week there were “15% less deaths than if death rates were the same as 2019” (however, this is likely affected by catch up after recent bank holidays). Crucially, looking at the year as a whole, the number of deaths is actually below the 2019 total at this point of the year – just (0.4% lower).
Another way of contextualising COVID-19 as a cause of death is to compare against other diseases – COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in both 2020 and 2021 if diseases are combined in particular groupings, but by those same groupings is the 3rd highest cause of death in 2022 (so far).
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 3.84 million people tested positive in the week to 22nd May, very similar to the the 3.85 million last week. This is driven by a plateau in Asia, and falls in Europe being offset by a rise in cases in North America.
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.