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27th May 2022 update

Team members James Beecher and Claire Biggs summarise data on Covid-19

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 56 as of 24th May, up from 48 last week (+17%). It’s unclear if the falling trend has flattened out or is this indicates the start of a new rising trend at present (see chart below). As on the 17th May, there were still two patients with COVID-19 in local critical care as of 24th May, and there were four such patients from 20th to 22nd May.

7 people died with COVID-19 listed as a cause of death in the most recent week (to 13th May), one of them had lived in the Stroud district. These deaths bring the total number of people who have died with COVID-19 mentioned on their death cerficiate in Gloucestershire to 1,545. Across Stroud district the total is 290. 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.

Source: the UKHSA dashboard data for Gloucestershire

The chart below takes the hospital numbers for 2022 alone so the recent changes can be seen more easily.

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 1.6% or 1 in every 60 people across England in the week to 20th May. In Gloucestershire the rate is expected to be a little higher at 1.7% but this is still close to 1 in every 60 people – much lower than it has been. 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 anymore but now flat – we’ll need to wait and see.

Source: ONS infection survey

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 still around 2,300 people with the virus across the district (1.8%), but is up very slightly by 65 people compared to last week , near enough to the the first time it has risen since peaking at 8,800 people in Stroud district (or 7.3%) at the beginning of April. However, we have seen a couple of apparent ‘rises’ which were only hiccups in the downward trend so it is, again, too early to tell if the situation is shifting.

Source: ZOE app

National summary

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). 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 nations of the UK with possible exception of Scotland (slight rise from last week could be margin of error in the estimate), and in all age groups – lowest among children, where they now lower than 1 in 100 for those in school years 7 to 11, and highest among those aged 25-34 where they are twice as high at around 1 in every 50 people. 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%.

The number of people currently in hospital with COVID-19 across the UK was 5,584 on the 26th May – down from 6,729 on the 19th May a week ago, and to nearly a quarter of the recent peak of 20,134 people on the 11th April (the last time they were lower was the 24th July 2021 when there were 5,384 patients in hospital beds in the UK with COVID-19).

The number of patients in mechanical ventilation beds – 194 – was, on the 20th May, a little higher than 189 the week before (13th), but 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 17% week on week.

795 people who had lived in the UK, died with COVID-19 listed on their death certificate in the most recent week of data – to 13th May, a drop on the previous week (838, we are seeing the impact of the recent fall in prevalence of the virus and hospital occupancy). This is the lowest weekly number by this measure since the week to 3rd September 2021 (when 781 people died with COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificates, though a higher proportion then had it listed as the main cause of death).You can see the clear drop in daily deaths on the chart below.

The ONS find that:

  • “In the week ending 13 May 2022 (Week 19), 12,048 deaths were registered in England and Wales; of these deaths, 719 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, accounting for 6.0% of all deaths.”
  • “Of the 719 deaths involving COVID-19 in Week 19, 62.6% (450 deaths) had this recorded as the underlying cause of death, compared with 64.5% in Week 18.”
  • “The number of deaths registered in the UK in the week ending 13 May 2022 (Week 19) was 13,591, which was 21.4% above the five-year average (2,397 excess deaths); of these deaths, 795 involved COVID-19, which was 43 less than in Week 18.”

18,244 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 195,347 people since the pandemic began (around 9% of total covid deaths have been in 2022).

Source: coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/deaths

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. While weekly data is affected by bank holiday impacts on reporting, looking at the year as a whole, the number of deaths is very similar to the 2019 total at this point of the year (0.1% lower).

International context

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 26th May, a fall on the 3.9 million last week. Identified cases have been rising in North and South America, falling in Europe, and plateauing across Asia (obviously with wide variation within continents).

Notes

Please refer to the NHS and government guidance on:

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.