There has been a steady increase in the numbers of infected people in Buckinghamshire for 7 weeks now. While Buckinghamshire is not yet an area that the Government would consider at risk of outbreaks or where a local lockdown is needed, it is rapidly moving towards that state. BuDS is continuing to warn older and disabled people in Bucks, especially those who are clinically more likely to die or be seriously ill if they catch Covid-19, to start actively preparing for outbreaks of Covid-19 here in Bucks.
ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
This article is designed to help you understand the risk of catching Covid-19 if you live in Buckinghamshire today, Monday 14th September. BuDS researchers have looked at data and statistics which have been published by Government, NHS and academic bodies, and a clinical epidemiologist has reviewed all our work. We are confident that what we say is as accurate and balanced as it can be using public data.
You catch Covid-19 from being around other people who have Covid-19, so understanding how many people have the virus right now in Buckinghamshire is important to understanding how risky it is to meet other people. (If you would like to know more about how you catch Covid-19, please use this link: https://buds.org.uk/how-do-people-catch-covid-19/)
THE RISK OF MEETING AN INFECTED PERSON IN BUCKS
We know from Public Health England data that in the three weeks between 24th August and 13th September, 210 people tested positive for Covid-19 in Bucks1. We know from the World Health Organisation that most people outside hospital have active symptoms of coronavirus for around three weeks2, so these are the people who potentially could infect you. We also know from published studies that about 80% of people with Covid-19 show no symptoms and so are not tested3. Adding these untested people to our total brings us up to roughly 1050 people with Covid-19 right now in Buckinghamshire. (This will change – it may go up, or it may go down).
At least some of these 1050 people with Covid-19 will be showing symptoms and self-isolating or even in hospital. Some sadly may have died and some may no longer be infectious. Some may have been traced by NHS Track & Trace and told to self-isolate. 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?
1050 people in the population of Bucks is about 19 people in every 10,000 people, or 1.9 in every 1000 people4]. The population of Aylesbury is about 60,0005, so (mathematically) there could be roughly 116 people infected with Covid-19 living in the whole of the town. High Wycombe has a population of 120,0006, so (mathematically) there could be roughly 232 people infected with Covid-19 living in the whole of the town. On a busy Saturday, about 8 to 12,000 people might travel through Aylesbury or Wycombe town centres, and perhaps 15 to 23 of them (mathematically) would be infected with Covid-19. A large event like Parklife or the Bucks County Show attracts over 20,000 people over the day and (mathematically) 38 or 39 of those people will be infected with Covid-19. In a big, busy, supermarket or store with 1000 customers, (mathematically) there will be 2 people infected with Covid-19.
Last week, looking at the three weeks before 7th September, there were about 900 infected people in Buckinghamshire. This week, looking at the three weeks before 14th September, there are 1050 infected people, an increase of 17%. This is a significant increase in the number of infected people, although the overall number is still low. There has been a steady increase in the numbers of infected people in Buckinghamshire for 7 weeks now. You can see a graph of the increase here: https://buds.org.uk/numbers-of-people-in-buckinghamshire-testing-positive-for-covid-19-over-a-rolling-3-week-period/
BuDS is aware that many people in Bucks are currently unable to get a Covid-19 test because the privately-run testing service is inadequate. The numbers of infected people in Bucks almost certainly would be more than stated above if everyone could get a test.
HOW BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COMPARES WITH OTHER PLACES
The Government and local councils are imposing restrictions and local lockdowns in many areas of the UK to limit the spread of Covid-19. While Government and councils take many factors into account when deciding to impose local restrictions, what is called the ‘local rate of infection’ is often quoted as one of the main reasons. If this rate gets too high, restrictions are imposed, and if the rate is below a certain level, extra restrictions are not imposed or they are removed.
To calculate the ‘local rate of infection’, Public Health England divide the total number of people who have ever tested positive for Covid-19 in an area by the population of that area. This isn’t a useful figure for deciding how risky a place is right now, but it does provide a way to compare one area with another. Using this calculation method, Buckinghamshire has a ‘local infection rate’ of 380.5 per 100,000 population, an increase over the 367.6 of last week. This is just over half the current rate of Leeds, where a local lockdown is in place and just over a third of the rate of Bolton, which is also in local lockdown.7 So, while Buckinghamshire is not yet an area that the Government would consider at risk or where a local lockdown is needed now, it is rapidly moving towards that state.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
These are mathematical calculations based on a ‘worst case’ scenario, not actual predictions. There could be more infected people actually present on any one day in any place than the numbers suggest, or fewer.
Infections usually occur in small areas as ‘hotspots’, but BuDS does not have access to the figures to know if these exist in Buckinghamshire. The Public Health team at Buckinghamshire Council hopefully will warn everyone if a ‘hotspot’ starts to develop in Bucks.
One person with Covid-19 could infect dozens or even hundreds of other people if precautions aren’t taken to limit infection. Small numbers can rapidly become large numbers, which is why social distancing, washing hands and wearing face masks remains important to keep numbers low. If people neglect sensible precautions like face coverings and hand washing because the current number of cases and risk is low, the number of cases and risk will rapidly rise.
Also, of course. you don’t necessarily have to meet 1000 people to meet one with Covid-19. The first person you see in the street or supermarket might be the one person with Covid-19.
REDUCING YOUR RISK STILL FURTHER
If you use sensible safety precautions and avoid high-infection-risk people and high-infection-risk places, you can reduce your risk still further. Sensible precautions include using a face mask or face covering, avoiding higher risk places and people, washing your hands frequently and using social distancing to keep away from people who might infect you. See links below for more information.
BEWARE OF OUTBREAKS!
Despite the rise in infections all over the UK, the Government is continuing to encourage schools and universities to open, and people to return to work in offices and town centres. This is rightly making many people anxious. The science is clear: the more people mix together, especially indoors, the more Covid-19 will spread and the more the numbers of people with Covid-19 will increase. Unlocking society also unlocks the virus.
If the numbers of infected people rise in general, then the science proves that there *will* be local outbreaks of Covid-19 in schools, universities, workplaces and other places where people gather.8 This has been seen in other areas of the UK and this *will* happen in Bucks too if our infection levels continue to rise.
BuDS is continuing to warn older and disabled people in Bucks, especially those who are clinically more likely to die or be seriously ill if they catch Covid-19, to actively start preparing for outbreaks of Covid-19 here in Bucks. You should be avoiding places which are higher-risk for catching Covid-19 and limiting your contact with people who are at high risk of infecting you with Covid-19, including children and students who are back at school, college or university. To learn more about higher-infection-risk people and places that you should avoid, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/high-risk-places-and-people-to-avoid-if-you-are-older-or-shielding/
You can read detailed, fact-checked, advice for school students, staff and families here: https://buds.org.uk/the-risks-of-fully-reopening-schools-to-individuals/
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/how-dangerous-is-covid-19-if-you-catch-it/
To learn more about how face coverings and face masks can protect you, and read our recommendations about using them, click this link: https://buds.org.uk/information-about-face-coverings-and-masks/
BuDS is keeping a very close eye on the statistics and will put out another article next week using the latest figures.
Please feel free to share this article using social media. However, please do not share only parts of it, or edit it, or try to claim that it is your own work. If you do, BuDS may take legal action against you.
 Based on calculations using rate figures and daily case announcements from the Government – https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/#category=utlas&map=case, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/897199/Weekly_COVID19_Surveillance_report_-_week_27.pdf, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51768274,
 Using data from https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/cases, Leeds has a rate of 684.2 which is 1.8 times that of Buckinghamshire. Half of this rate figure would be 342.1, which is under the figure of 380.5 in Bucks, so Bucks has a rate over half of that in Leeds.
Bolton has a rate of 1126.4 which is 2.96 times that of Buckinghamshire. A third of this rate figure would be 375.5, which is again just under the figure of 380.5 in Bucks, so Bucks has a rate just over a third of that in Buckinghamshire.