Covid-19 Risk Assessment Week Ending 3rd January 2022

As Bucks goes back to work and school, sadly Omicron infections remain incredibly high, with 1 in every 25 people now infected. This means it is almost inevitable that you and your family WILL catch Omicron in your normal life unless you take strict precautions. The cautiously good news is that the number of people going into local hospitals with Covid has only increased by a small amount so far – but it is still early days.

Our key message remains that everyone needs to take action to keep themselves safe from Omicron. Read on for more…


 

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. However, because of system delays over Christmas and New Year, this data will underestimate the real rise in infections. We will see the totals revised upward over the next few days as the tests waiting in the system get processed.

  • Using official test data, on Monday 26 December we calculated that there were 20,049 infected people in Bucks. By 2 January, we calculated that there were 21,241, a 6% increase.
  • Using official average R-Rate data, on Monday 26 December we calculated that there were 16,781 infected people in Bucks. By 2 January, we calculated that there were 20,049, a 19% increase.
  • Using official max R-Rate data, on Monday 26 December we calculated that there were 18,411 infected people in Bucks. By 2 January, we calculated that there were 22,054, a 39% increase.

Looking at all this data together, we calculate that the number of infected people in Bucks has increased from between 16,800– 20,100 to 20,100 – 22,100, a rise of up to 32%. This large increase is due to the new wave of Omicron infections.

We check whether our calculations are right by comparing them with the Office for National Statistics’ Infection Survey, which is independent and does not rely on reported test results. This comparison shows that our calculations are always very accurate. If you’d like to know more about how we calculate our figures and how we check them for accuracy, please use the link at the bottom of this article.

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?

Once again there are more infected people in Bucks than we have ever seen before. This means your chance of meeting an infected person when you are out and about in Bucks is 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 – 41
  • How many infected people in Aylesbury?2 – 2,433
  • How many infected people in High Wycombe?3 – 4,865
  • How many infected people in Amersham?4 – 1,098
  • How many infected people in Chesham?5 – 1,083
  • How many infected people in Buckingham?6 – 608
  • How many infected people in Burnham?7 – 461
  • How many infected people (adults or children) in a large school?8 – 61
  • How many infected people in a busy town centre?9 – 405
  • How many infected people at a large public event?10 – 811
  • How many infected people in a busy shopping centre?11 – 41
  • How many infected people in a busy supermarket?12 – 12
 

HOW IS THE NHS COPING?

NHS data is always about a week behind. On Monday 19 December there were 193 people infected with Covid-19 in Bucks hospitals. On 26 December, there were 195, slightly more. So, the demand on the NHS in Bucks from Covid-19-infected patients on 26 December (not now) is the same as 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. According to NHS data quoted in the press, in the week to 26 December Bucks hospitals had the equivalent of around 170 staff absent sick every day13.

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.


 

GOOD NEWS: SO FAR OMICRON IS HOSPITALISING FEWER PEOPLE THAN DELTA

In Bucks, thankfully we have not yet seen the start of a big increase in the number of people going into hospital with Covid. We know from national research that a smaller percentage of people who catch Omicron go on to develop severe illness compared to Delta. Since Omicron began to displace Delta in Bucks (after 6 December), approximately 1 person has been admitted for every 42 people testing positive. This suggests that, so far, Omicron is causing four times FEWER people in Bucks to become severely ill compared to Delta. This is in line with the national research.

However, it is still early days in the Omicron wave and there has been a small increase in the number of people in hospital in Bucks. We will know if hospitalisations have continued to climb next week.


 

COVID-19 DEATHS IN BUCKS

We are now going to show you death statistics for the last two weeks rather than just the last week, so you get a more accurate figure.

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

  • Between 19 December and 2 January, 5 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,074. Because people are increasingly living longer even with severe Covid illness, this is the least accurate total.
  • Between 19 December and 2 January, 10 people died within 60 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,291. This total is the most clinically appropriate because of the length of time people now live with severe Covid illness.
  • Up to 17 December, 1,301 died of Covid-19 as recorded by doctors on their death certificates. This is the most reliable total, but data is always two weeks old.

Because people typically die of Covid a few weeks after catching it, the deaths of people who have caught Omicron in the current wave are not likely to be included in the data published so far. Their deaths will start to be recorded in the weeks to come.


 

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE VACCINATED IN BUCKS?

Here are the latest vaccination figures for 2 January:

  • Secondary-age children (aged 12 to 15) – 59.8% have had 1 dose; 4.6% have had two doses and 0% have had three doses. 99.99% (29,744) are not fully vaccinated and vulnerable to Omicron
  • Older Teenagers (aged 16 to 17) – 74.8% have had 1 dose; 51.1% have had two doses and 3% have had three doses. 97% (13,811) are not fully vaccinated and vulnerable to Omicron
  • Adults (aged 18 to 70) – 85.7% have had 1 dose; 82.8% have had two doses and 55.1% have had three doses. 41.2% (155,234) 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 91.9% have had three doses. 8.1% (6,262) 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. More than 40% of adults also have very low protection against Omicron, and most worryingly, nearly a tenth of older adults have very low protection against Omicron.

Despite the heroic efforts of the NHS and volunteers, the numbers of vaccinated people in Bucks are crawling up very slowly. Only booster (third) doses in adults increased significantly, where the percentage triple-jabbed rose from 55.1% to 58.8% in a week, although there has also been a small increase in older children and teenagers getting their second vaccine dose.


 

OMICRON UPDATE

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

  • 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.
  • There is increasing reliable evidence that children and young people are at 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 has sharply increased since Omicron has started to spread. BuDS will be doing a separate update about this.

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. Remember, although a lower percentage of people catching Omicron go into hospital, Omicron is not a ‘mild illness’. It still makes those people who do get ill, very ill. BuDS calculates that around 1 in 42 people in Bucks who catch Omicron go into hospital with severe illness.


 

GOVERNMENT INACTION

Despite the obvious wave of Omicron rolling over England, the Government have said again today (Monday 3 January) that they see no reason to introduce any tougher precautions against Covid-19. England remains the only country in the western world which has not significantly toughened precautions against Covid in the face of Omicron. It is believed that the Government have flatly rejected repeated recommendations of its own medical and scientific advisors to toughen precautions. Worryingly, Ministers have started hinting that only an acute shortage of mechanical ventilation beds (used by critically ill patients) would justify tougher precautions. This is a really extreme way to measure public health – only a tiny fraction of the most seriously ill people need mechanical ventilation, so waiting until these beds are running out means a tidal wave of very ill people will be in hospital.


 

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 a fair level of protection which you need to have.
  • Make sure children and teenagers have two or three doses of vaccine as well. Omicron appears to be 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

[13] NHS England data quoted in multiple press sources – BuDS is seeking to locate the original data