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12th June 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 local data continues to be encouraging, but please don’t miss that at the national level it seems numbers of infections, hospital admissions and bed occupied by people with COVID-19 are all rising (read more in the national section below).

The latest local data:

The total number of people who have tested positive and are occupying any hospital bed in Gloucestershire was 34 as of 7th June. This is the lowest number in 2022 (previous lowest was 41 patients on the 16th May, highest was 174 on the 28th Feb), and indeed the lowest number since 15th October 2021. There were no COVID-19 patients in critical care beds locally on the 5th, 6th, or 7th June (there was one patient in critical care on the 4th June).

5 people died with COVID-19 listed as a cause of death in the most recent week of this data (to 27th May), four 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 1,558. Across Stroud district the total is 296. 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.

Source: the UKHSA dashboard data for Gloucestershire

The chart below shows how there have still been some COVID-19 patients admit to critical care in recent months, but that since January 2022, the number has never been above 5 – and several times this year there have been no COVID-19 patients in critical care (including in the most recent days – 5-7th June 2022). The contrast with 2021 (when there were around 10 and even up to 19 COVID-19 patients in critical care during previous peaks) is clear.

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. Unfortunately, it seems that the fall in prevalence has at least stalled, and that the proportion of people with active infections may be rising again (due to new sublineages of Omicron, known as BA.4 and BA.5 starting to push infections up, even as the waves of prevoius sublineages BA.1 and BA.2 subside). See more on this below. As of 2nd June (the latest data from ONS), infection prevalence was around the lowest it has been in 2022, however, at around 1.5% or 1 in every 70 people. Rates in Gloucestershire (1.48%) and across England (1.46%) are very similar – any difference is likely just due to sample size and margin of error.

Source: ONS infection survey

The charts below from Paul Mainwood show that ONS prevalence data by day for England already shows a rise, as do confirmed cases on gov.uk (though these are only capturing around 9% of infections at the moment), provides the ONS estimates by sublineage, and – from the previous week – give a rough indication of what might happen if the data available on growth rates of different varieties of SARS-COV-2 (versions or ‘sublineages’ of the Omicron variant) follows the patterns they have been.

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 show an unclear trend, but encouraging their most recent estimate of around 2,300 people with the virus across the district (1.9%) is back down to around the lowest for this year (down from 2.4% last week). This rate is much lower than the peak where ZOE estimated around 8,800 people in Stroud district (or 7.3%) had an infection at the beginning of April.

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.

Sadly, at a national level, the number of patients being admitted to and in hospital with COVID-19 has started to rise. Hospital deaths are still falling – but it will take time for any new trend in hospitalisations to impact on deaths due to the time it takes people to get sick.

As Actuary John Roberts notes, “The proportion of beds with a COVID diagnosis, where it is the primary condition for which they are being treated dipped to 32% a week ago, but has risen back to 35%. It’s too early to tell whether that dip was a blip, or a genuine bottoming out before a subsequent increase.” However, regardless, the numbers of patients where COVID is the main diagnosis is rising again – though after two months of decline and from a relatively low base (though still over 1,000 patients).

455 people who had lived in the UK, died with COVID-19 listed on their death certificate in the most recent week of data – to 27th May, a further drop on the previous week (615) in a now clearly declining trend. This is the lowest weekly number by this measure since the week to 23rd July 2021 (when 392 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 27 May 2022 (Week 21), 10,860 deaths were registered in England and Wales; 410 of these deaths mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, accounting for 3.8% of all deaths.”
  • “This is a decrease compared with the week ending 20 May 2022 (Week 20), when the number of all-cause deaths registered was 11,520; COVID-19 accounted for 547 of these deaths (4.7%).”
  • “Of the 410 deaths involving COVID-19 in Week 21, 64.9% (266 deaths) had this recorded as the underlying cause of death, compared with 61.4% in Week 20.”
  • “The number of deaths was above the five-year average in private homes (23.4% above, 599 excess deaths), care homes (6.5% above, 131 excess deaths), hospitals (5.3% above, 237 excess deaths) and other settings (3.6% above, 29 excess deaths) in Week 21 in England and Wales.”

20,904 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 198,199 people since the pandemic began (around 11% 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 (0.3% higher – with 2019 a historic low for deaths, so mortality this year is well below 2018 and 2017).

International context

Last week I included this chart looking at South Africa, where the new sublineages of Omicron (“BA.4” and “BA.5”) have peaked with much less impact on severe illness and death than previous waves of the SARS-COV-2 virus. I’m keeing it in this week because there has been no update, but it’s relevant to the above re what might happen in the UK with these versions of the virus.

Whether people have access to testing strongly influences confirmed case numbers by continent, but across the world as a whole cases are just about rising slowly. around 3.45 million people tested positive in the week to 11th June, a fall on the 3.3 million last week (obviously with wide variation within continents).

Lastly, the UK Health Security Agency has issued a first report on “Monkeypox” – which includes the encouraging news that cases may have been brought under control. See Meaghan Kall’s twitter thread for a link to the full report and a summary of the key points:

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.