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3rd Sept 2022 Update

Numbers of infections and hospitalisations associated with SARS-COV-2 continue to fall locally and nationally and the COVID-19 alert level has been reduced. Read more in our latest fortnightly update.

These reports are now fortnightly rather than weekly. We hope they are still useful to people – and we will consider increasing frequency should there be a need.

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. For further info, see the COVID-19 Actuaries Group weekly report.

Don’t miss the new details from the JCVI regarding who will be invited for / eligible for an additional COVID-19 booster over the Autumn.

A key update has been made in recent days:

“The chief medical officers of the UK nations and the national medical director of the NHS in England have jointly recommended that the Covid alert level be moved down from level 3 amid falling cases. They said the Covid-19 wave of the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 was “subsiding”. Rates of Covid have decreased as have the number of severe cases needing hospital care, they added. However, they said further Covid surges were “likely” as they urged people to take up the offer of vaccination. The autumn booster campaign is due to start within days. The move brings the UK to the lowest alert level it has been at since the system was introduced in May 2020. Level 2 is defined as being in “general circulation in the UK, but direct Covid-19 healthcare pressures are low and transmission is declining or stable”, while 3 is in “general circulation in the UK”. A final downgrade to level 1 would mean the virus is “present in the UK, but the number of cases and transmission is low”.”

Reported in The Guardian, Wed 31st August

The latest local COVID-19 data:

Numbers of people with infections are still fairly high, but are as low as they approaching levels as low as any time since the emergence of the Omicron variant in November 2021. We don’t have an estimates for Gloucestershire from the ONS lately, but about 1 in every 60 people in England and every 50 people across the South West were estimated to have had a SARS-COV-2 infection in the week to 23rd August and there is little or no reason to believe things are different in Gloucestershire. These estimates come from the Office for National Statistics, who 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 (with around 75,000 tests per week). The chart below shows recent data for the South West and England, and previously available data for Gloucestershire. The similarity between the percentages testing positive at anyone time and the trends indicate that the South West and England data is a good guide to the local situation.

Looking at the situation in hospitals and data from the ZOE symptom and test-result reporting app, it seems cases have stopped falling.

Source: ONS infection survey

The total number of people who have tested positive and are occupying any hospital bed in Gloucestershire was 36 as of 30th August. This is less than half the number at the start of the month (76 patients on 1st August. It is a fraction of the highest level in 2022 so far (174 on the 28th Feb), and a smaller proportion of the highest ever number of patients in local hospitals confimed to have tested positive for SARS-COV-2 (262 patients at the peak in January 2021). Comparisons with previous periods are a little misleading, as a higher proportion than previously are now treated primarily for something else (meaning the situation now is in reality much better than a comparison of raw numbers implies). Unlike in previous waves, few patients have been admitted to critical care recently with COVID-19 – there was one patient in critical care with COVID-19 locally as of 31st August, and were no patients in critical care as recently as the 28th August.

Sadly, another 5 people who had lived in Gloucestershire died with COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificates in the most recent week of data (to 19th August), and together with 4 in the previous week, 9 have died since our last update. In each of these cases, a clinician has determined that COVID-19 played at least a contributory role in the death. One of these people, 2 had lived in Stroud. A total of 307 people who had lived in Stroud district have now died with COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate. These are among the 1,625 deaths of people who had lived in Gloucestershire, and 205,600 total deaths of people who had lived in the UK, in total. You can see on the chart below that weekly deaths have been much lower since the introduction of vaccines from December 2020.

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 (and also splits data by the community hospitals like Stroud and The Vale, and ‘acute’ hospitals like Gloucester and Cheltenham). It’s important to stress that recent data shows that 36% of these patients are being treated primarily for COVID-19. In the remainder of cases COVID-19 may be worsening another condition, or it could just be that someone has tested positive but is mainly affected by another condition.

Source: the UKHSA dashboard data for Gloucestershire

The picture is similar nationally, where admissions are down by over a tenth week on week, and numbers of patients staying in hospital are also falling by a similar amount. The total number of people being treated primarily for COVID-19 is down to around 2,000 people – see tweets below.

National summary

Deaths by date of death for instances where COVID-19 is mentioned on a death certificate by a clinician as at least contributing to the death are falling – having peaked in the recent ‘wave’ on 20th July. The chart below shows clearly how this recent ‘peak’ was much lower than those in the pre-vaccination era in spring 2020 and winter 2020/21.

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

For a great broader 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. This includes that 96.1% of people tested positive for antibodies to COVID-19 (generated either by immune response to infection, vaccination, or both) – down slightly on recent estimates which could be estimate flucuation but could also be due to waning immunity (whatever the cause of immune response). The ONS also estimate that around 2 million people continue to report experiencing ‘Long Covid’ symptoms.

International context

Whether people have access to testing strongly influences confirmed case numbers by continent, but across the world as a whole weekly COVID-19 cases have fallen. Around 4.3 million people tested positive in the week to 1st September, compared to around 7.1 million people tested positive in the week to 1st August.

The numbers of daily deaths also appear to have peaked,well below the rates from mid-April 2020, let alone January and April 2021 (Alpha variant), August 2021 (Delta variant), and February 2022 (first wave of Omicron variant)

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.