The risk of meeting someone in Bucks infected with Covid-19 this week is roughly the same as it was last week. Read on for more…
This post is designed to help you understand the risk of catching Covid-19 if you live in Buckinghamshire today, Tuesday 28 July. 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. If you go to our website, you can also see all the places we got our information from.
You catch Covid-19 from being around other people who have Covid-19. People who are infected breathe out tiny droplets of water containing the virus which float in the air for a while. If you breathe in the droplets, you can catch the virus. The tiny droplets containing the virus also get onto things, like a door handle. If you touch those things and then touch your face, the droplets can get into your body through your mouth, nose or eyes and you can get infected. But the virus in the droplets, whether in the air or on surfaces, die out after a while. Because of this, you can’t catch Covid-19 very easily unless you meet other people who have Covid-19 or visit places where they have been quite soon before you. Covid-19 is like a ‘small cloud of possible infection’ that follows people who are infected, not a poison that contaminates places for a long time.
So, it really matters how many people in Bucks have Covid-19 right now. If only a very few people in Buckinghamshire have Covid-19, the risk of coming across someone with the virus or visiting somewhere they have just been is very low. On the other hand, if lots of people in Buckinghamshire have Covid-19, then there is a much higher risk that you will come across someone with the virus or visit somewhere they have just been. So, understanding how many people have the virus right now in Buckinghamshire is important to understanding how risky it is to meet other people.
However, the Government deliberately conceals detailed data about Covid-19 in the UK. Only bits of data are published – most of what is shown to the public is only about the position on any particular day. They also use very confusing measuring methods. Because of this, what we say below is only rough calculations. However, we do think it is good enough for you to use to make decisions.
We know from Public Health England data that in the three weeks between 5th June and 26th July, 56 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 280 people with Covid-19 right now in Buckinghamshire. (This will change – it may go up, or it may go down).
Some at least of these 280 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. But, for the purposes of calculating risk, we will assume that they are all out in the community potentially able to infect you. How likely are you to meet them?
280 people in the population of Bucks is about 5 people in every 10000 people4. The population of Aylesbury is about 60,0005, so (mathematically) there could be roughly 31 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 62 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 4 to 6 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) 10 or 11 of those people will be infected with Covid-19.
Last week, looking at the three weeks before 13th July, there were about 255 infected people in Buckinghamshire. This week, looking at the three weeks before 19th July, there are 280 infected people, a rise of 25 cases or 10%.
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. Remember too that 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.
Also, of course. you don’t necessarily have to meet 10,000 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.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?
Today, 28th July, your chance of coming across someone in Buckinghamshire who can infect you with Covid-19 is mathematically small, unless you meet huge numbers of people in your life. The risk of you catching Covid-19 is therefore small. However, as we have shown in another post, for some people, catching Covid-19 can be very serious.
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. We will be making another post about precautions, so this is just a summary. Remember, for some people, catching Covid-19 can be very serious even if the risk of catching it is low.
Sensible safety precautions include using a face mask or covering indoors and in crowded places, washing your hands often, and most importantly trying to keep away from other people, at least 2 metres.
High-infection-risk places to avoid are places where groups of people gather at certain times, such as town centres, shopping centres, bigger schools, supermarkets, railway and bus stations, big offices and factories, crowded parks and streets, and of course beaches, stadiums, cinemas, and events. Inside places are much more risky than outside places. If you do need to go to high-infection-risk places, you should take extra care and use safety precautions as described above.
High-infection-risk people to avoid are people who work at or go to high-infection-risk areas, like health and care workers, shop workers, teachers, and transport workers. People whose work means they meet a lot of people are also high-infection-risk, like police officers, doctors and nurses, vicars, priests and religious leaders. If you do need to see high-infection-risk people, you should take extra care and use safety precautions as described above.
BuDS is keeping a very close eye on the statistics and will put out another post next week using the latest figures.
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 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,