The number of people infected with Covid-19 in Buckinghamshire has once again risen sharply in the last week. The Covid-19 situation in Bucks remains significantly more dangerous for older and clinically susceptible people. Read on to learn more…
BuDS feels it is now essential for older and disabled people in Bucks who are clinically more likely to die or be seriously ill if they catch Covid-19 to radically change their behaviour to protect themselves, if they have not already done so. Although the Government has refused to re-start formal shielding, BuDS urges older and clinically-susceptible people to start to self-isolate themselves for their own safety, if they are not already doing so. See this link for details: https://buds.org.uk/high-risk-people-should-start-self-isolating-1-october/.
ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
This article is designed to help you understand the risk of catching Covid-19 if you live in Buckinghamshire today, Monday 16th November. 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 – STEP ONE
We calculate the risk in three different ways.
FIRST WAY OF CALCULATING RISK
The first way of calculating risk is by looking at published data from Public Health England about positive tests. This says that, in the three weeks between 19th October and 8th November, 2417 people had symptoms of Covid-19, got a test, and then tested positive for Covid-19 in Bucks. We know, however, that because some people in Bucks may have been unable to get a test, this may not accurately reflect the total number of infected people with symptoms.
SECOND WAY OF CALCULATING RISK
The second way is by looking at the average regional ‘R-Rate’ calculated by Public Health England and applying it to the published data from Public Health England for the three weeks prior to last week. The ‘R-Rate’ shows how quickly the number of infected people was rising across London and the South East of England, including Buckinghamshire, based on a large-scale survey of people. Using this independently-calculated measure, there should have been 2161 people testing positive in Bucks. This shows that the number of infected people in Bucks is rising faster than the average across London and the South East.
THIRD WAY OF CALCULATING RISK
The third way is by looking at the maximum regional ‘R-Rate’ calculated by Public Health England and applying it to the published data from Public Health England for the three weeks prior to last week. The ‘R-Rate’ shows how quickly the number of infected people was rising across London and the South East of England, including Buckinghamshire, based on a large-scale survey of people. Using this independently-calculated measure, there could have been 5155 people testing positive in Bucks. This shows that the rate at which the number of infected people in Bucks is rising, while very high, is not this week as high as the maximum rate of increase elsewhere in London and the South East.
THE RISK OF MEETING AN INFECTED PERSON IN BUCKS – STEP TWO
We know from published studies that about 80% of people with Covid-19 show no symptoms and so are not tested. Adding these untested people to our three totals gives us these final figures:
Actual published test data (with struggling testing system): 12085 people with Covid-19 in Bucks
Calculated result if average regional ‘R-Rate’ applied: 10805 people with Covid-19 in Bucks.
Calculated result if maximum regional ‘R-Rate’ applied: 25777 people with Covid-19 in Bucks.
Of these three measures, we feel that the calculations using the testing figures from Public Health England are most likely to be closest to the true picture despite the issues with the testing system, and so we are using in it in the rest of this article.
At least some of these 12085 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?
12085 people in the population of Bucks is about 222 people in every 10,000 people, or roughly 22 in every 1000 people. The population of Aylesbury is about 60,000, so (mathematically) there could be roughly 1333 people infected with Covid-19 living in the whole of the town. High Wycombe has a population of 120,000, so (mathematically) there could be roughly 2666 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 178 to 267 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) 444 of those people will be infected with Covid-19. In a big, busy, shopping centre with 1000 customers, (mathematically) there will be 22 people infected with Covid-19.
Last week, looking at the three weeks before 26th October, we reported that there were around 10415 infected people in Buckinghamshire, calculated using the number of positive tests. This week, positive tests in Bucks have risen to 12085, an increase of 16% over our reported figure last week. This is a slight rise on the 14% percentage increase last week, suggesting that the current partial lockdown is NOT yet reducing the rise in Covid-19 cases in Buckinghamshire. The local R-Rate (which determines how fast the infection is likely to spread between people) is still the joint highest in England by region. It has remained at this level for 3 weeks and not decreased, which suggests that Buckinghamshire is still among the worst parts of England in terms of the rate cases are rising. Overall, the number of infected people in Bucks is still growing very fast indeed, as fast as anywhere else in the UK (if not faster). There has been an exponential increase in the numbers of infected people in Buckinghamshire for 15 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/
HOW BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COMPARES WITH OTHER PLACES
The government’s three-tier system of restrictions has now been replaced by a national lockdown starting on Thursday 5th November, meaning that is no longer possible to consider how Bucks compares to the incidence rates of areas in higher restrictions as we had previously done. However, comparing the local rates of the surrounding countries and London boroughs is still very valuable for assessing relative risk, and as such we will be continuing to present that data going forward. To calculate the ‘weekly local rate of infection’, Public Health England divide the number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 7 days in an area by the population of that area and multiply by 100,000. This isn’t a useful figure for deciding how risky a place is right now, because non-symptomatic cases aren’t included, but it does provide a way to compare one area with another. Using this calculation method, Buckinghamshire has a ‘weekly local infection rate’ of 1167.7 per 100,000 population, an 18% increase over the 993.1 of last week. This is a larger rate of increase in the ‘rate’ than last week, matching the rise in case increase described above.
London, just to Bucks’ southern border, has an average local infection rate of 1461.9. Camden has a local rate of 1143.2 (24.5 lower than in Bucks, and lower than in Bucks for the first time in the pandemic despite consistently rising over the last few months, showing that the rate of case increase in Bucks is rising significantly faster than in Camden), Hillingdon Borough was 1617.9 and Harrow Borough was 1644.4.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
These are mathematical calculations, 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 local areas as ‘hotspots’, but BuDS does not have access to the figures to know if these exist in Buckinghamshire.
As the Chief Medical Officer warned recently, 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 vital to keep numbers low. If people neglect or refuse to take sensible precautions like face coverings and hand washing, the number of cases and risk will continue to rapidly rise.
Also, of course, you don’t necessarily have to meet 50 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.
PARTIAL LOCKDOWN IN ENGLAND
The Government has now introduced a new national partial lockdown, which closes restaurants, pubs, entertainment venues, non-essential shops and gyms, but leaves open schools, colleges and universities which are proven to spread Covid-19. While it is too early to say what impact this partial lockdown will have, the continued mixing of people will continue to spread Covid-19 and cases will probably continue to rise. The risk to older and clinically-susceptible people remains extremely high, and is likely to increase for several weeks yet despite the partial lockdown. Our weekly risk assessment posts like this one will keep you informed about how successful the lockdown is in Bucks.
IF YOU ARE NOT HIGH RISK FROM COVID-19
If you are not high risk of being seriously ill or dying if you catch Covid-19, you should still reduce your risk of catching and spreading the virus by using sensible safety precautions and avoiding higher risk people. 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.
IF YOU ARE HIGHER RISK FROM COVID-19
BuDS feels it is now essential for older and disabled people in Bucks who are clinically more likely to die or be seriously ill if they catch Covid-19 to radically change their behaviour to protect themselves, if they have not already done so. Although the Government has decided not to re-start formal shielding, BuDS urges older and clinically-susceptible people to start to self-isolate themselves for their own safety, if they are not already doing so. See this link for details: https://buds.org.uk/high-risk-people-should-start-self-isolating-1-october/.
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.
NOTE – Due to technical difficulties, we are unable to put the references in place for our data this week. However, they are the same references as was included last week, so if you wish to see the references please see last week’s post here