Covid-19 Risk Assessment Week Ending 24th January 2022

Hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 continued to climb in Bucks last week, although the total number of infected people is now thankfully falling. However, 1 in every 26 people in Bucks are STILL infected and so it is still essential that everyone takes strict precautions against catching Omicron. Read on for more…


 

WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE PANDEMIC IN BUCKS?

We are now in a transition period in the pandemic. The huge numbers of people who caught Omicron in December and early January is now turning into a big rise in hospitalisations and deaths as some of those people develop severe illness and die. Those high numbers in hospital or dying will continue for a few more weeks as severe illness develops in people who have caught Covid more recently.

More positively, Omicron is now starting to run out of people to infect in Bucks, and so the numbers of NEW cases are starting to fall. Covid is running out of people to infect for two reasons. Firstly, the number of people who are triple-jabbed is slowly growing and those people (for a while) are less likely to catch or get ill with Omicron. Second, people who have already caught Omicron are mostly protected (for a while) against catching it again.  These two reasons mean that Omicron is now ‘looking around for people to infect’, rather than finding them everywhere. This in turn means the number of new cases per week is falling.

This is NOT the end of risk from Omicron. People typically remain contagious for around 10 days and so the total number of infected people is made up of some people who were infected in the last week as well as those newly infected in the current week. This is why BuDS uses a two week rolling calculation of the number of infected people – and that total is still exceptionally high, with 1 in every 26 people still infectious and able to give you Covid. Check out our risk illustrations below for what that means in your town or local supermarket.


 

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS LASTING IMMUNITY FROM OMICRON

Many politicians and misinformation outfits talk about ‘herd immunity’. This is the idea that once you’ve caught a virus, you can’t catch it again. Many people fondly hope that, having allowed Omicron to burn through the population, that will be the end of Omicron. But Omicron is a coronavirus, like a cold, and there is no such thing as long-lasting immunity against a coronavirus. It just mutates to get around your immunity, just as colds do every year. This has been known since the beginning of the pandemic.

We already know from reliable scientific evidence from many countries that people can catch Omicron more than once. As we said above, people are mostly protected against catching Omicron when they have had their third booster vaccine dose, or when they’ve recently caught Omicron. But neither the booster immunity nor the ‘natural immunity’ from catching Omicron last very long. Both sorts of immunity start to wear off around 10 weeks after the booster or previous infection. Already, people who were boosted or infected last year are losing their protection. As time goes by, more and more people start to become vulnerable to catching Omicron again. If they don’t take precautions, they will catch Omicron again.

This means that (ignoring Omicron BA.2) the falls in new cases will flatten out in a few weeks as Omicron starts to re-infect people at the end of their immunity cycle. We don’t know if that flattening will happen with tens of thousands of people infected at any one time, or thousands. What we do know is that, probably in the Spring or early summer, unless the Government takes action, we will see the number of infections starting to rise again, setting us up for another winter wave like the one we have just had. And all the time cases are high, a percentage of people will die and a percentage will be severely ill in hospital and a high percentage will get Long Covid.

Government policy to ignore Covid and encourage people to catch it is fuelling an infection engine which runs on people’s lives and wellbeing. The engine will run all through 2022, killing, disabling, and damaging people in waves as it goes. This is the BEST outcome we can hope for, because it ignores the reality of the new Omicron BA.2 variant.


 

OMICRON BA.2

Omicron BA.2 is a new variant of the Covid-19 virus, similar in some ways to the Omicron BA.1 variant which has been spreading in the UK since last November. The Omicron BA.2 variant has been spreading rapidly in other countries including Denmark, Norway, and India.

The key thing to remember about Omicron BA.2 is that it appears to be able to get around the temporary immunity people might have after catching Omicron BA.1. What this means is that, even if you have had Omicron BA.1 recently, you might be able to catch Omicron BA.2 straightaway afterwards. If this proves to be true, this means that we could soon start to see a rapid increase in the number of infected people in the UK as BA.2 starts to spread.

We said above that the best-case scenario is a fall in new Omicron BA.1 cases followed by a flat period and then a rise as people get reinfected with Omicron BA.1. But, if Omicron BA.2 is hard on the heels of BA.1, then the fall might not last for long at all, as BA.2 takes hold and pushes the numbers up again. This would mean a lot more people chewed up by the Covid infection machine during 2022.

There is no reliable evidence yet about how effective vaccines are against Omicron BA.2 – more news as we get it.


 

THE RISK IN BUCKS THIS WEEK

BuDS 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.

  • Using official UKHSA reported test data, on Monday 17 January we calculated that there were 17,898 infected people in Bucks. By 24 January, we calculated that there were 18,303, a 3% increase.
  • Using official UKHSA average R-Rate data, on Monday 17 January we calculated that there were 25,358 infected people in Bucks. By 24 January, we calculated that there were 18,121, a 29% decrease.
  • Using official UKHSA max R-Rate data, on Monday 17 January we calculated that there were 28,665 infected people in Bucks. By 24 January, we calculated that there were 21,296, a 26% decrease.

Looking at all this data together, we calculate that the number of infected people in Bucks has fallen from 25,300 – 28,800 to between 18,300 and 21,300. This is a significant fall and one which follows the trend in the more reliable ONS Infection Survey data.

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 – 39
  • How many infected people in Aylesbury?2 – 2,349
  • How many infected people in High Wycombe?3 – 4,698
  • How many infected people in Amersham?4 – 1,060
  • How many infected people in Chesham?5 – 1,046
  • How many infected people in Buckingham?6 – 587
  • How many infected people in Burnham?7 – 445
  • How many infected people (adults or children) in a large school?8 – 59
  • How many infected people in a busy town centre?9 – 391
  • How many infected people at a large public event?10 – 783
  • How many infected people in a busy shopping centre?11 – 39
  • How many infected people in a busy supermarket?12 – 12

 

HOW IS THE NHS COPING?

NHS data is always about a week behind. On 9 January there were 315 people infected with Covid-19 in Bucks hospitals. On 16 January, there were 425, 34.9% more. So, the demand on the NHS in Bucks from Covid-19-infected patients on 16 January (not now) is a THIRD 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.

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 – but on current trends, an increase (at least for the next few weeks) seems likely. 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 remaining high as Omicron claims more victims.

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

  • 23 January, 22 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,110. Because people are increasingly living longer even with severe Covid illness, this is the least accurate total.
  • Between 9 January and 23 January, 26 people died within 60 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,335. This total is the most clinically appropriate because of the length of time people now live with severe Covid illness.
  • Up to 7 January, 1,320 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 23 January:

  • Secondary-age children (aged 12 to 15) – 64.0% have had 1 dose; 21.4% have had two doses and 0% have had three doses. 99.99% (29,790) are not fully vaccinated and vulnerable to Omicron
  • Older Teenagers (aged 16 to 17) – 76.4% have had 1 dose; 57.3% have had two doses and 5.8% have had three doses. 94.2% (13,426) are not fully vaccinated and vulnerable to Omicron
  • Adults (aged 18 to 70) – 86.0% have had 1 dose; 83.2% have had two doses and 65.3% have had three doses. 34.7% (130,633) 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 92.6% have had three doses. 7.4% (5,696) 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. 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, the percentage of adults triple-jabbed rose from 64.4% to 65.3% in a week and the number of older children and teenagers getting one of their three vaccinations also went up. The overall rate of progress is still far too slow, however.

Those who received their booster jab before 28 November 2021 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. Despite this, so far, the Government have said they do not intend to give anyone a 4th booster.


 

OMICRON FACTS

  • 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 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 nearly 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