Covid-19 Risk Assessment Week Ending 6 December 2021

Sadly, Covid-19 infection levels in Bucks have once again returned to CRITICALLY HIGH levels, with more than 1 in every 50 people now infected. The number of people in hospital remains high and vaccinations are still moving too slowly. With Omicron now feely circulating in Bucks and England, the pandemic in Bucks is becoming more dangerous as we approach Christmas. Read on for more…


 

OMICRON IS HERE

A new Covid-19 variant called Omicron is spreading in England and here in Bucks. It was confirmed today that Omicron is now being spread by community infection, not just by recent arrivals from abroad. BuDS has produced a summary article covering the recent Government briefing on the Omicron variant – this is linked at the end of the article.

The full facts about Omicron are still not yet known but it seems to be both much easier to catch than Delta (the present variant) and vaccines appear to be less effective against it. There is no evidence yet about whether Omicron makes you sicker when you catch it than Delta. There is a lot of media speculation (especially from Government supporters) that Omicron makes you only ‘mildly ill’. Don’t believe this ‘hopium’ – real doctors and scientists are saying that nobody can yet predict how people will be if they catch Omicron. As soon as there is firm evidence, you can trust BuDS to share it with you.

What is certain is that, as a more infectious variant, Omicron will make the pandemic in Bucks more dangerous. Everyone – not just disabled and clinically vulnerable people – needs to be taking precautions not to catch Covid-19.


 

GET VACCINATED, GET BOOSTED

Vaccination is the single best thing you can do to protect yourself against Covid-19. Nearly a fifth of adults in Bucks have not got two doses of vaccine. While some of these people will be clinically unable to be vaccinated, most are vaccine-anxious or refusers. Vaccines are safe and effective and, with Omicron starting to spread, everyone should be getting the vaccines which keep themselves and others safe. There is a very well-funded and organised professional anti-vaccine propaganda machine spreading lies and fake news about vaccines. Please don’t believe them. BuDS is an independent disability charity and we have satisfied ourselves that vaccines are safe. BuDS trustees, staff and volunteers are vaccinated and none of us have come to harm from them.

Being ‘fully vaccinated’ (three doses) means you have a good chance of not immediately being seriously ill if you catch Covid-19, although vaccination doesn’t protect so much against the longer-term effects like organ and brain damage. If you haven’t had three doses, like most of the population, you should not be thinking you are ‘safe’ from Covid-19.

The third vaccine dose is now available to all adults over 18 after three months have passed since your second dose. Please get your third dose as soon as you are called to do so – although for most adults this will not be until 2022.


 

DON’T LET COVID-19 BE YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT

The Government have re-introduced some weak temporary precautions such as making face coverings compulsory in shops, hairdressers etc and on public transport. But the Government is still sending the message that Christmas this year can be completely normal – you can go to parties, cinemas and shows, go shopping in crowded stores, and have people around to your home whenever you like. Doctors are trying to advise differently – the chief medical officer has said that ‘unnecessary’ social gatherings should be avoided, for example – but the Prime Minister immediately said that people should party as much as they like. This is irresponsible nonsense.  

BuDS wants to make it absolutely clear that if you have a ‘normal Christmas’, there is a very high chance that you WILL catch Covid-19. Community infection levels are so high that it is only a matter of time. Vaccination may or may not protect you from being seriously ill, but it won’t protect so much from Long Covid or developing other serious conditions. And you will almost certainly spread the virus to others. Not catching Covid-19 at all is still safest and most responsible thing to do.

Please DON’T FOLLOW THE CROWD. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe by continuing to be Covid-Careful.

Covid-Careful doesn’t mean shielding or complete self-isolation – meeting friends and family is vital for mental health, and it is still safe to meet OUTDOORS if you take sensible precautions (read our article or watch our video to learn more). But EVERYONE now should be meeting as few people outside their household as possible, and avoiding crowds, events and indoor places like theatres, shops, restaurants, and pubs.


 

BREATHING CLEAN AIR IS ESSENTIAL

Omicron, Delta Plus and Delta are airborne viruses – they travel mainly in the air breathed out by infected people. So, the three best ways to protect yourself are:

  1. Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and getting your third (‘booster’) dose as soon as you can. Vaccination with THREE doses will help you avoid getting seriously ill if you catch Delta or Delta Plus and will help protect you against Omicron, although perhaps not so much
  2. Making sure you are breathing clean fresh air, not air contaminated by other people’s breath. This means opening windows wide or being out of doors when you meet people who might be infected, especially children and young people. Young primary school children, who rarely show any sign that they are infected, are a particular risk.
  3. Keeping well away from people who might be infected and breathing out the virus, by avoiding indoor places as much as possible and socially distancing even outdoors.

Wearing a cloth face-covering yourself, washing your hands and using hand sanitiser are still important but these precautions are not as effective against Omicron, Delta and Delta Plus because the virus mainly travels by air.


 

HELP IS AVAILABLE!

If you need help or support or you’re anxious about Covid-19, BuDS is here for you. Please e-mail buds-support@buds.org.uk, call 01494 211179 (voicemail) or message us and we’ll do all we can to help.


 

THE RISK IN BUCKS THIS WEEK

You catch Covid-19 from other infected people, so knowing how many infected people are around in your community is the most important fact when looking at risk. BuDS uses 4 separate sets of official data to make sure we can give you the best and most balanced picture of the risk from Covid-19 in Bucks. We are not trying to make precise mathematical calculations but assess whether the number of infected people in the local community is going up or down.


 

FIRST SET OF DATA: REPORTED POSITIVE TESTS

The UK Health Security Agency (a body controlled by the Government) counts the number of people who test positive for Covid-19 using either a laboratory PCR test or a lateral-flow test kit later confirmed by a PCR test. BuDS adds together the daily positive test totals over the last two weeks, because people generally have Covid-19 and are infectious for about two weeks. This gives us a total number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and are still infectious. This total still underestimates the true number of infected people in the community, because lots of people who have Covid-19 don’t get tested or don’t report a positive test. So, BuDS increases the number of people testing positive to try to take account of the people who are positive but don’t get tested or report a positive test.

Last week, after making the calculations shown above, we said there were 9,439 infected people in Bucks. After revision of the test data by UKHSA, it turns out that the total was actually 9,272. That means last week the number of reported positive tests rose 9% – we originally reported a 12% increase.

On the data we have from UKHSA, this week we calculate there are 9,731 infected people in Bucks,1 which (taking last week’s revised total into account) means that the number of infected people in Bucks measured by UKHSA tests has risen by 5% this week. It is very likely that the number of infected people, and the associated risk, will continue to increase as December continues.


 

SECOND SET OF DATA: AVERAGE R RATE DATA – UKHSA

The UK Health Security Agency uses a range of surveys and test data every week to calculate the ‘R Rate’ for Covid-19.2 The R-rate measures how quickly the number of people infected with Covid-19 is growing or shrinking. The R Rate is still calculated by UKHSA to be 1.2 in the South-East. Using the average R Rate for the South-East of England, including Bucks, we calculate that last week there were 8,594 infected people in Bucks, and this week there are 10,018, a rise of around 17%.


 

THIRD SET OF DATA: MAXIMUM R RATE DATA – UKHSA

Thirdly, using the maximum R Rate for the South East of England, including Bucks, we calculate that there were 9,865 infected people in Bucks last week, and now there are 11,127, a rise of around 13%.


 

CHECKING THE DATA: ONS INFECTION SURVEY

The Office for National Statistics (which is independent of Government) test a random sample of 50,000 people across the UK every week, whether they are ill or not, to see how many have Covid-19. This Infection Survey is the most reliable way of estimating how many people have Covid-19, because it doesn’t rely on people choosing to get a test or report a positive result.3 Unfortunately, the survey results are slow to come out – the latest fully-comparable figures we have are for the week ending 22 November, 2 weeks ago. That data shows a significant rise (12.2%) in the number of infected people across the South East as a whole, which is less than the 20% rise we saw in reported positive tests in Bucks in that week. The ONS consistently finds more infected people in Bucks than is shown by reported positive tests.


 

PUTTING ALL THE DATA TOGETHER

Looking at all the data, it is clear that the risk from Covid-19 in Bucks is HIGHER than last week, and is now CRITICALLY HIGH. Depending on the test data you use, the number of infected people has gone from between 8,500-9,800 to between 9,700-11,000. 1 in every 49 people in Bucks are infected with Covid-19.


 

HOW LIKELY ARE YOU TO MEET AN INFECTED PERSON?

Using the UKHSA max R Rate data, which we think this week is the most likely to be accurate,4 we have calculated that there are 11,127 people infected with Covid-19 in Bucks this week. At least some of these infected people in Bucks will be showing symptoms and self-isolating or been told to self-isolate by Track and Trace. Some may be in hospital or have died. However, for the purposes of calculating risk, we will take the ‘worst case’ scenario and assume that every infected person is still out in the community potentially able to infect you. How likely are you to meet them?

How many infected people in every 1000?5 – 21

How many infected people in Aylesbury?6 – 1,227

How many infected people in High Wycombe?7 – 2,455

How many infected people in Amersham?8 – 554

How many infected people in Chesham?9 – 547

How many infected people in Buckingham?10 – 307

How many infected people in Burnham?11 – 232

How many infected people (adults or children) in a large school?12 – 31

How many infected people in a busy town centre?13 – 205

How many infected people at a large public event?14 – 409

How many infected people in a busy shopping centre?15 – 21

How many infected people in a busy supermarket?16 – 6

Remember, people infected with Covid-19 move about. The figures above show a theoretical number based on population or crowd size to help you get an idea of the likely number. Also, you don’t necessarily have to meet 49 people to meet one with Covid-19. The first person or child you see in the street or supermarket might be the one person with Covid-19.


 

HOW IS THE NHS COPING?

The pressure from Covid-19 on Bucks hospitals has risen again this week, remaining HIGH. Last week, according to NHS data, 305 people were admitted to Bucks hospitals for the first time with symptoms of Covid-19 or were admitted to hospital for other reasons and found to have Covid-19 when tested in the hospital, down from 313 the week before (-2.6%). Covid-19 continues to lead to the cancellation of operations and delays to other urgent hospital treatment for the residents of Bucks. Like every other ambulance service in England, South Central Ambulance Service, which covers Bucks, has declared an emergency several weeks in a row.


 

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE DYING?

2 people were recorded as dying in Bucks last week within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, and 2 people were again recorded as dying in Bucks last week within 60 days of a positive Covid-19 test. Both these figures are thankfully down on those last week. This brings the number of deaths in Bucks since the pandemic began to 1060 within 28 days or 1268 within 60 days.

 The ONS also measure the number of people dying of Covid-19 using death certificate data. This is the most reliable data by far, but publication is significantly delayed. The most recent comparative date we have is 19 November. On that date, the ONS found that 1283 people had died in Bucks of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, compared to 1051 within 28 days of a positive test and 1255 within 60 days of a positive test (as reported by the UKHSA). It is clear that the UKHSA reported figures understate the numbers of people dying of Covid-19.


 

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE VACCINATED IN BUCKS?

The vaccination programme in Bucks remains a story of two halves: activity around children and already vaccinated adults, but not much change for unvaccinated adults. We have been able to add data on booster doses as this is now being published for Bucks.

  • 54.5% of 12- to 15-year-olds in Bucks have had one dose, up only 2% on last week. 0.6% have had two doses, unchanged on last week. 1 person has had three doses, unchanged on last week.
  • 70.6% of 16- & 17-year-olds in Bucks have had one dose, up only 1% on last week. 28.8% have had two doses, up 7% on last week. 1.3% have had three doses, up 0.3% on last week.
  • 85.1% of adults 18 to 70 in Bucks have had one dose, almost unchanged on last week. 81.8% have had two doses, again almost unchanged on last week. 29.9% have had a third dose, up 5.4% on last week.
  • 96.7% of adults over 70 in Bucks have had one dose, unchanged on last week. 96.1% have had two doses, again almost unchanged on last week. 88.4% have had three doses, up 1.9% on last week.
  • Overall, 84.7% of the people on the NHS vaccine register in Bucks have had a first dose, 77.7% have had two doses, and 36.4% have had three doses.

This may sound reassuring, but very large numbers of people in Bucks have still to receive any vaccine or cannot be vaccinated for clinical reasons. They include 13,522 12-15-year-olds, 4,719 16 & 17-year-olds, 56,089 adults under 70 and 2,526 adults over 70. In total, around 122,000 people in Bucks of all ages have not yet received even a single dose of vaccine.


 

THE KEY MESSAGE

The key message for EVERYONE hasn’t changed: this is a time to you to ACT TO PROTECT YOURSELF from both Covid-19 and Long Covid by being Covid-Careful.


 

WE ARE HERE TO HELP!

If you need advice on how to keep yourself safe, or any other form of help or support, or you’re anxious about Covid-19, BuDS is here for you. Please e-mail buds-support@buds.org.uk, call 01494 211179 (voicemail) or message us and we’ll do all we can to help.


 

MORE INFORMATION

To read the rest of our articles about Covid-19, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/category/our-work/iag-covid-19/

To learn more about the people who are more likely to die or have serious illness if they catch Covid-19, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/danger-of-covid-19/

To learn more about Long Covid, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/long-covid-july-2021-update/

To learn more how to be safer when going out, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/meeting-safely-out-of-doors/

To read more about the Omicron variant of Covid-19, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/buds-analysis-of-the-prime-ministers-statement-about-the-omicron-variant-of-covid-19/  

To read our past risk posts, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/category/our-work/iag-covid-19/risk-assessments/

To see how we calculate the figures used in this post in more detail, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/risk-post-statistical-methods-explanation/  


 

UPDATES

BuDS will put out another Covid-19 update next week using the latest figures.


 

FINALLY

Please share this article on social media, but always credit BuDS. If you need help or support or you’re anxious about Covid-19, BuDS is here for you. Please e-mail buds-support@buds.org.uk, call 01494 211179 (voicemail) or message us and we’ll do all we can to help.


 

REFERENCES

[1] Using data from https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/download. The raw test figures are added together and adjusted to account for asymptomatic cases based on scientific data, in order to create a rolling two week average which best represents the number of infected people in Bucks this week. This rolling average is the figure that we use in the post.

[2] Using data from https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-r-number-in-the-uk#latest-r-number-and-growth-rate. The figure quoted is calculated in the same way as the rolling average figure described in reference 1, but using the R number to estimate the number of positive cases rather than UKHSA test data.

[3] For information on the infection survey, including the data collected (which is used by BuDS to calculate this estimate for Bucks), see https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/datasets/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveydata or https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveypilot/23april2021 for the weekly reports

[4] The ONS Infection Survey historically consistently reports more infected people than any of the other measures we use, so we think the UKHSA max R Rate data is more likely to be correct this week as it is the highest of the up-to-date data sources available.

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

[6] 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.

[7] 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[15] Assuming 1000 people present at any one time

[16] Assuming 300 people present at any one time