Covid-19 Risk Assessment Week Ending 17th January 2022

The feared increase in hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 has arrived in Bucks, with both totals more than doubling. Also, the most reliable information shows that the Covid-19 pandemic in Bucks has NOT improved, with an incredible 1 in every 19 people STILL infected. Contrary to what you may read in the media, the Omicron pandemic in Bucks is NOT ‘getting better’ or ‘going away’, and it is still essential that everyone takes strict precautions against catching Omicron. Read on for more…


 

BEWARE OF FAKE NEWS: COVID-19 IS NOT ‘OVER’

There are two ways to work out how the Covid-19 pandemic in Bucks is developing. One is to look at the number of people taking a Covid test, and then reporting that test result to the Government. The other way is to look at the independent ONS Infection Survey, which does not rely on people reporting their test results to the Government.

The number of people in Bucks reporting a positive test result significantly dropped last week from 22,000 to 16,000. However, we know that it was very difficult to get hold of tests last week, and there is also research saying that people, especially working people, are more reluctant to report a positive test because it means they cannot work or socialise while they are isolating. So, the fact that the number of reported positive tests has fallen may not mean that less people have Covid-19 – it might just be that people couldn’t get hold of a test or didn’t want to report a positive result.

The independent ONS Infection Survey does not rely on people reporting their positive tests, and so is regarded as the most reliable way of working out the number of infected people. The number of infected people in Bucks measured by reported positive tests started to fall from 3 January – but on the same date, the ONS Infection Survey showed a continuing steep increase. This proves that using reported positive tests is NOT an accurate way to measure community infection levels. We do not have ONS Infection Survey data for the last 10 days, but, if we look at the likely current totals, they will be very significantly higher than the reported positive test totals.

BuDS is therefore WARNING everyone not to believe media reports that the pandemic is ‘over the peak’ or that ‘cases are falling rapidly’. This is simply not true, and is a fake story created to support the extremist political view that no precautions are needed against Covid-19.


 

THE RISK IN BUCKS THIS WEEK

BuDS normally uses 3 separate sets of Government data to give you the best idea of the risk of catching Covid-19 from an infected person in Bucks. However, this week, we are NOT using reported positive test data as we believe that it is misleading and inaccurate. We are relying instead on the official data used by UKHSA and the ONS to calculate the R Rate for Covid-19, i.e. how quickly the pandemic is growing or shrinking.

  • Using official UKHSA average R-Rate data, on Monday 10 January we calculated that there were 25,498 infected people in Bucks. By 17 January, we calculated that there were 25,314, a 1% decrease.
  • Using official UKHSA max R-Rate data, on Monday 10 January we calculated that there were 28,571 infected people in Bucks. By 17 January, we calculated that there were 28,616, a 0.1% increase.
  • For this week only, using the official ONS lowest likely prevalence projections for the South East, we have calculated that there were 27,200 infected people in Bucks on Monday 10 January. Assuming a prevalence of 5.3% last week (based on the average weekly increase and the current trend in the data), the number of infected people in Bucks last week will be around 28,800. Although this is a speculative total, it does match the official UKHSA R Rate calculations.

Looking at all this data together, we calculate that the number of infected people in Bucks has increased to between 25,300 and 28,800. At best, this shows that the number of infected people in Bucks is remaining high and not yet showing any sign of a significant reduction. At worst, there could have been an actual increase in the number of infected people in Bucks last week. We will know more when the ONS Infection Survey is published on Friday 21 January.

You can see how current numbers compare to the other waves of Covid-19 in Bucks by looking at the graph.


 

HOW LIKELY ARE YOU TO MEET AN INFECTED PERSON?

Your chance of meeting an infected person when you are out and about in Bucks remains CRITICALLY HIGH.

If we assume that every infected person is active in their local community, these figures will help you understand the risk of meeting one.

  • How many infected people in every 1000?[1] – 53
  • How many infected people in Aylesbury?[2] –3,156
  • How many infected people in High Wycombe?[3] – 6,313
  • How many infected people in Amersham?[4] – 1,424
  • How many infected people in Chesham?[5] – 1,406
  • How many infected people in Buckingham?[6] – 789
  • How many infected people in Burnham?[7] – 598
  • How many infected people (adults or children) in a large school?[8] – 79
  • How many infected people in a busy town centre?[9] – 526
  • How many infected people at a large public event?[10] – 1,052
  • How many infected people in a busy shopping centre?[11] – 53
  • How many infected people in a busy supermarket?[12] – 16

 

HOW IS THE NHS COPING?

NHS data is always about a week behind. On Monday 3 January there were 192 people infected with Covid-19 in Bucks hospitals. On 10 January, there were 315, 64.1% more. So, the demand on the NHS in Bucks from Covid-19-infected patients on 10 January (not now) is vastly higher than it was in the week before.

Caring for infected patients is not the only pressure on the NHS in Bucks. Many NHS staff catch Covid or have to self-isolate because they have been in contact with an infected person. BuDS is aiming to include this data in future reports.

Keeping Covid-19 under control is vitally important for the NHS and for everyone. If the number of Covid-19 patients gets too high, or high numbers of NHS staff are off sick or self-isolating, or both, hospitals cannot keep patients safe, and care is threatened for all patients.


 

INITIAL GOOD NEWS ABOUT OMICRON HOSPITALISING FEWER PEOPLE THAN DELTA MAY BE FALSE

In Bucks, until last week, the number of people going into hospital with Omicron had not increased compared to those going into hospital with Delta. Unfortunately, this week has seen a big jump in the number of people going into hospital in Bucks with Omicron infections. This is probably because older and more clinically vulnerable people are now catching Omicron and experiencing severe illness. In the early stages of Omicron spreading, it was mainly younger people who were catching it, who were less likely to need hospital treatment.

It is too early to know whether the numbers of people in hospital with Omicron are going to continue to increase, stay very high, or reduce. If the number of people in hospital stays very high or increases, this will put huge strain on the NHS in Bucks and all patient care will suffer.


 

COVID-19 DEATHS IN BUCKS

We use death statistics for the last two weeks rather than just the last week, so you get a more accurate figure. Over all three counting measures, the numbers of deaths in Bucks is now sadly jumping higher as Omicron starts to claim more victims. Previously, 5 to 10 people were dying of Covid-19 in Bucks every week. Last week, 20 to 25 people died of Covid-19 in Bucks. We can’t predict if this fatality rate will continue, or even increase – we will have to wait for the data.

There are three ways of counting the number of Covid-related deaths in Bucks.

  • Between 2 January and 16 January, 21 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,098. Because people are increasingly living longer even with severe Covid illness, this is the least accurate total.
  • Between 2 January and 16 January, 24 people died within 60 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,320. This total is the most clinically appropriate because of the length of time people now live with severe Covid illness.
  • Up to 31 December, 1,313 died of Covid-19 as recorded by doctors on their death certificates. This is the most reliable total, but the data is always two weeks old.

 

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE VACCINATED IN BUCKS?

Here are the latest vaccination figures for 16 January:

  • Secondary-age children (aged 12 to 15) – 62.8% have had 1 dose; 15.7% have had two doses and 0% have had three doses. 99.99% (29,781) are not fully vaccinated and vulnerable to Omicron
  • Older Teenagers (aged 16 to 17) – 75.9% have had 1 dose; 55.6% have had two doses and 4.4% have had three doses. 95.6% (13,614) are not fully vaccinated and vulnerable to Omicron
  • Adults (aged 18 to 70) – 85.9% have had 1 dose; 83.1% have had two doses and 64.4% have had three doses. 35.6% (134,038) are not fully vaccinated and vulnerable to Omicron
  • Older Adults (aged over 70) – 96.9% have had 1 dose; 96.2% have had two doses and 92.5% have had three doses. 7.5% (5,798) are not fully vaccinated and vulnerable to Omicron

Because 2 doses of vaccine only give low protection against Omicron, what matters now is how many people in Bucks have had 3 doses – double vaccinated plus booster. As the figures above show, nearly all children and young people in Bucks have very low protection against Omicron. Almost 40% of adults also have very low protection against Omicron, and most worryingly, approaching a tenth of older adults still have very low protection against Omicron.

Last week, the percentage of adults triple-jabbed rose from 62.7% to 64.4% in a week and the number of older children and teenagers getting one of their three vaccinations remained constant. This rate of progress is, however, significantly down on previous weeks.

We also know that the effect of the booster (third) vaccine dose starts to wear off after only 10 weeks. This means those who received their booster jab before 21 November 2021 are, week by week, becoming less protected against Omicron. While their risk of being severely ill and being admitted to hospital is still quite high, their resistance to catching Omicron and being ill at home is shrinking. Despite this, so far, the Government have said they do not intend to give anyone a 4th booster.


 

OMICRON UPDATE

Even though Omicron seems to make a smaller percentage of people severely ill, it is still more dangerous than the Delta variant that we had. This is because:

  • While Omicron seems to send fewer people into hospital with the most severe illness, it still makes people very ill at home. People catching Omicron are often unable to work or do everyday things for weeks. People should not assume Omicron will cause only mild illness like a cold – this is simply not true for many people.
  • Omicron spreads frighteningly easily between people, especially indoors. Only a tiny amount of virus floating in the air is enough to make you infected. This means that the precautions which might have kept you safe in the past from Delta will not keep you safe from catching Omicron. People need to use much tougher precautions to avoid catching Omicron.
  • Omicron isn’t stopped by two doses of vaccine, like Delta was. Being ‘double jabbed’ meant that you had a lower chance of catching Delta and a much lower chance of being seriously ill if you caught Delta. But two doses of vaccine does very little to stop you catching Omicron and your chance of being seriously ill if you catch Omicron is much higher.
  • Even if you have three doses of vaccine (i.e. you’ve been boosted), there is still a risk that you will get ill if you catch Omicron and that could be a serious illness. 3 or 4 ‘triple-jabbed’ people in every 10 will get ill after catching Omicron.
  • It is now proven by several reliable studies that children and young people are at much higher risk of being ill and needing hospital treatment if they catch Omicron versus Delta. The number of children and teenagers going into hospital with Covid, and sadly dying of Covid, has sharply increased since Omicron has started to spread.

Remember, so many people in the community now have Omicron, and it is so easy to catch, that it is CERTAIN that you will catch Omicron sooner or later if you or members of your household are active in the community, including children attending school.


 

WHAT TO DO NOW

This is BuDS’ advice:

  • If you are not double vaccinated, get vaccinated as soon as possible. Double vaccination may not provide complete protection against illness, but it is a great deal better than nothing. Vaccines are safe and proven, so don’t delay.
  • If you are double vaccinated, get a third booster dose as soon as possible. Boosting doesn’t give complete protection against illness, but does provide high protection against severe illness which would put you in hospital.
  • Make sure children and teenagers have two or three doses of vaccine as well. Omicron is causing more severe illness in children and young people than Delta, so vaccination of these age groups is even more vital. Remember, the vaccine is as safe as any other medicine given to children.
  • Clinically-vulnerable people should go back to shielding, or as near shielding as they can manage. This means not seeing people outside your household or bubble unless you take strict precautions to keep safe, such as asking visitors to get tested, wearing a protective face mask, and meeting in places where you can be sure of breathing only fresh air.
  • If there are children in a clinically-vulnerable household, we recommend you give very serious thought to home-schooling the children until the Omicron wave has reduced. With no real precautions against Covid in schools, particularly primary schools, children will inevitably bring Covid home to their parents and relatives.
  • Everyone should be limiting their contact with other people as much as possible, and taking strict precautions when they have to meet other people. This means working from home or changing your working arrangements temporarily if you can, not going to big social gatherings like parties, theatres and pubs, meeting people in the safest possible circumstances, and taking thorough precautions against getting infected like wearing a face covering and washing hands.
  • We strongly advise everyone to get and wear a N95 or FFPE2 personal protective face mask which filters viruses out of the air you breathe. Get one from a reliable branded supplier, not an anonymous Amazon shop. Remember to make sure it is tightly-fitted so that air does not leak around the edges.
  • Anyone who is not shielding should test regularly to see if they have caught Omicron. Lateral flow tests are not reliable so, if you feel ill or have any symptoms of illness, self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test to confirm whether you have Omicron or not.

You can have Omicron for several days before showing any symptoms, so test yourself before you meet anyone else or go anywhere. In particular, do not go anywhere near older and clinically-vulnerable people until you have tested negative on a PCR test. Do not risk your vulnerable loved one’s lives on an unreliable lateral flow home test kit.


 

MORE INFORMATION

If you’d like to know more about the issues below, use the appropriate link.

How we calculate our figures and how we check them for accuracy – https://buds.org.uk/risk-post-statistical-methods-explanation/

All our Covid-19 articles – https://buds.org.uk/category/our-work/iag-covid-19/

Sources of Help – https://buds.org.uk/category/help-in-a-crisis/  


 

WE ARE HERE TO HELP

BuDS can help you by answering questions, providing information, helping you find practical support or help in a crisis or being a friendly voice if you’re lonely or isolated. If you’d like any help or support from us, message us through social media, e-mail buds-support@buds.org.uk or leave us a voicemail on 01494 211179. We’ll do our very best to help you


 

REFERENCES

[1] Population of approx. 543973 based on 2018 survey data, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51768274

[2] Population of approx. 60,000 people, from https://www.aylesburytowncouncil.gov.uk/about-aylesbury/#:~:text=Aylesbury%2C%20the%20County%20Town%20of%20Buckinghamshire%2C%20is%20a,of%20over%2060%2C000%2C%20the%20largest%20in%20Aylesbury%20Vale.

[3] Population of approx. 120,000 people, from https://www.wycombe.gov.uk/pages/About-the-council/Transparency-and-open-government/Open-data/Statistics-and-census-information.aspx

[4] Population of 27,077 as of the 2011 Census, from http://old.buckscc.gov.uk/media/1000352/Local-Community-Area-Data.xls

[5] Population of 26,718 as of the 2011 Census, from http://old.buckscc.gov.uk/media/1000352/Local-Community-Area-Data.xls

[6] Population of approx. 15,000 people, from https://www.buckingham-tc.gov.uk/

[7] Population of approx. 11360 as of the 2011 census, from https://wikishire.co.uk/wiki/Burnham,_Buckinghamshire#cite_note-ons-1

[8] Assuming pupils plus staff equals 1500 people in total

[9] Assuming 10,000 people present at any one time

[10] Assuming 20,000 people present at any one time

[11] Assuming 1000 people present at any one time

[12] Assuming 300 people present at any one time