Covid-19 Risk Assessment Week Ending 21st March 2022

There is now a Covid-19 EMERGENCY in Buckinghamshire, with the virus out of control and infection rates soaring. Reliable ONS data shows that as of 12 March, a staggering 1 in every 15 people in Bucks has Covid-19. The current total will be higher still. And this CRITICALLY HIGH level of infection matters! People are going sick in huge numbers, and schools, public services and workplaces are struggling to cope. Older and clinically vulnerable people are catching Covid in larger and larger numbers, despite taking care. Bucks hospitals are filling up with even more Covid patients and deaths are increasing too, although the full immediate cost of the virus surge won’t become clear for several weeks.

BuDs urges everyone to be Covid-Cautious and keep taking sensible precautions against catching Covid. Wear a FFP2 or N95 filter mask in public places, breathe clean air, avoid crowds and busy places, work from home if you can, and protect your older and vulnerable relatives and friends.

Covid-19 is NOT like the flu or a cold – Covid-19 is medically proven to cause widespread organ damage and long-term illness in millions of people, which the flu has never done. Even if you have manageable Covid illness at home, the longer-term effect on you and your future could be devastating. Taking sensible precautions is in your own best interest, especially if you are disabled, have medical conditions, or are an older person.


 

Get A Protective Mask!

Disabled and clinically vulnerable people can get high-quality medical-grade reusable PPE face masks at a massive 70% discount thanks to a partnership between BuDS and Cambridge Masks. There is a link at the end of this article to the form to get the discount. Any number of masks can be bought, and the offer is open to all disabled and clinically vulnerable people in the UK, not just in Bucks. This offer ends 31 March, so get yours now!


 

You Can Catch Covid-19 Multiple Times – And Each Time May Damage You More!

New NHS data shows that millions of people in England have caught Covid-19 more than once – tens of thousands have had it three times or more.  Having caught Covid before, or being fully vaccinated, doesn’t stop you catching Covid again. Vaccination does help stop you dying of Covid or being immediately critically ill with Covid, so vaccination is essential, but it doesn’t stop you catching Covid.

If Covid was a simple flu or cold virus, catching it multiple times wouldn’t matter very much. But Covid is a dangerous virus that can cause serious changes to people’s bodies after you catch it, even if you don’t feel very ill immediately. People do not feel ill when they catch the HIV virus, but (unless treated with massive antivirals) they will become very ill later. The Epstein-Barr virus causes no or mild symptoms when you catch it, but people who do catch this virus are nine times more likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS) later. So, catching Covid-19 matters because it puts your future health at risk as well as making you ill at the time you catch it. NHS data shows that more than a tenth of people catching Covid experience long-term health issues – and 3-5% develop disabling long-term conditions. Sadly, research is increasingly clear that the more time you catch Covid-19, the more risk you have of developing serious health conditions in the weeks and months after your infection.  

So, even if you’ve had Covid before, don’t increase your risk by catching it again. Take sensible precautions to look after yourself and others.


 

BA.2 – The Latest New Variant

The current huge wave in Covid-19 infections across England is caused by the BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron variant. BA.2 is one of the most infectious viruses ever seen in general circulation – some 40% more infectious than Omicron BA.1 and particularly infectious in small groups or indoors. BA.2 is now the dominant or main Covid variant in England and it is expected to keep infection levels very high until the beginning of May.

There are already signs that other new variants are starting to spread and the most likely thing to happen is that one of these new variants will start to replace BA.2 in April and May, leading to high infection levels throughout the summer. Remember, a future new variant could be MORE dangerous than Omicron or even Delta. There is no law that says viruses only mutate to become less dangerous, although this false claim is often made on social media. While vaccines will continue to protect people from a high risk of death, it is quite possible that future variants could cause more severe illness or have a worse long-term impact.


 

The Risk In Bucks

BuDS uses the most up to date 5-day rolling average ONS Infection Survey data covering the period to 12 March. This is of course 9 days ago but it is the most reliable data available.

Using this data, we calculate that 1 in 15 people in Bucks have Covid, which is 35,773 people. This is drastically higher than it was in our last risk assessment.

You can see how current numbers compare to the other waves of Covid-19 in Bucks by looking at the graph. We have included the number of positive tests reported purely for comparison – these test results are no longer of any value in tracking the virus. It is notable, however, that even the total number of positive tests reported to UKHSA has started to increase extremely rapidly.


 

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] – 66
  • How many infected people in Aylesbury?[2] – 3,946
  • How many infected people in High Wycombe?[3] – 7,892
  • How many infected people in Amersham?[4] – 1,781
  • How many infected people in Chesham?[5] – 1,757
  • How many infected people in Buckingham?[6] – 986
  • How many infected people in Burnham?[7] – 747
  • How many infected people (adults or children) in a large school?[8] – 99
  • How many infected people in a busy town centre?[9] – 657
  • How many infected people at a large public event?[10] – 1,315
  • How many infected people in a busy shopping centre?[11] – 66
  • How many infected people in a busy supermarket?[12] – 20

 

How Is The NHS Coping?

NHS data is always about a week behind. On 6 March there were 577 people infected with Covid-19 in Bucks hospitals. On 13 March, there were 467, 19.1% less. So, the demand on the NHS in Bucks from Covid-19-infected patients on 13 March (not now) is now lower than it was in the week before.  This fall is due to the delay between people catching Covid and becoming ill enough to be admitted to hospital. This delay is often 2 or 3 weeks, so the huge recent rise in infections has not yet been seen in the hospitalisation data. You can see a graph showing this below. We do expect this situation to change very rapidly over the next few weeks however – keep an eye on our posts for more on this.

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.


 

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 number of deaths in Bucks is sadly remaining high as Omicron claims more victims.

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

  • 20 March, 8 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,182. Because people are increasingly living longer even with severe Covid illness, this is the least accurate total.
  • Between 6 March and 20 March, 12 people died within 60 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,435. This total is the most clinically appropriate because of the length of time people now live with severe Covid illness.
  • Between 25 February and 4 March, 12 people died with Covid as a cause of death as recorded by doctors on their death certificates, bringing the total to 1,403. This is the most reliable total, but the data is always two weeks old.

There has again been a rise in the number of Covid deaths in Bucks in the last week. This appears to be the return of the previous rising trend seen in the data, but this will be confirmed if the figures rise next week as well. At least one person has died of Covid in Bucks every single day in the last six weeks.


 

How Many People Are Vaccinated In Bucks?

Here are the latest vaccination figures for 20 March:

  • Secondary-age children (aged 12 to 15) – 68.1% have had 1 dose; 41.6% have had two doses and 0.3% have had three doses. 99.7% (29,756) are not fully vaccinated and vulnerable to Omicron
  • Older Teenagers (aged 16 to 17) – 78.2% have had 1 dose; 63.8% have had two doses and 17.0% have had three doses. 83.0% (11,834) are not fully vaccinated and vulnerable to Omicron
  • Adults (aged 18 to 70) 86.3% have had 1 dose; 83.9% have had two doses and 68.2% have had three doses. 31.8% (119,986) are not fully vaccinated and vulnerable to Omicron
  • Older Adults (aged over 70) – 96.9% have had 1 dose; 96.3% have had two doses and 93.2% have had three doses. 6.8% (5,175) 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. Nearly a third of adults also have very low protection against Omicron, and most worryingly, thousands of older adults still have very low protection against Omicron.

Last week, vaccination in Bucks has continued to stagnate. The only major improvement is again in those aged 16-17 receiving their third dose.  Unvaccinated children, teenagers and adults are still not coming forward for vaccination in significant numbers.

Remember, those who received their booster jab before 23 January 2022 are, week by week, becoming less protected against Omicron. While their protection against being severely ill and being admitted to hospital is still quite high, their resistance to catching Omicron and being ill at home is shrinking.


 

Omicron Facts

  • While Omicron sends 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.
  • Catching Omicron, even if you have only very mild symptoms initially, exposes you to a VERY HIGH RISK of long-term conditions like brain damage, diabetes, strokes, heart disease and lung problems. Over a million people in the UK have developed cognitive loss, fatigue or other disabling symptoms after catching Covid – ‘Long Covid’. This connection between catching Covid and long-term ill health has been proven by many reputable medical studies and is not disputed by the Government.
  • 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 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.
  • It is now proven by multiple 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 HIGHLY LIKELY that you will catch Omicron sooner or later if you or members of your household are active in the community, including children attending school.


 

More Information

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

To find out more about the discounted FFP2 face masks for disabled and clinically vulnerable people, use this link: https://forms.office.com/r/zJqnEq6J7L

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