What impact has the partial national lockdown had on Covid-19 infections in Bucks so far? Read on to find out what the BuDS experts think.
BuDS has looked at two different sets of numbers. These are:
- The number of new people feeling ill, getting a test and testing positive for Covid-19 in Bucks every week as recorded by Public Health England, who collect data from the NHS and the privatised community testing service.
- The number of new people you would expect to be testing positive for Covid-19 in Bucks every week if the pandemic in Bucks is progressing the same as it is in other places in the South-East of England, using the average regional R-Rates calculated by Public Health England.
Important: we know that 8 out of 10 people who get infected with Covid-19 do not feel ill. Because of this, the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 is much smaller than the number of people infected with Covid-19, because people who do not feel ill do not get a test. In our risk assessment post, we use the higher number of infected people in Bucks so that you get a more accurate picture of the real risk. But in this post, to reduce confusion, we are just using numbers of people recorded as testing positive for Covid-19.
WHAT THE GRAPH SHOWS
Before lockdown, the number of people in Bucks testing positive every week for Covid-19 (the blue line) was going up quickly every week, faster than was happening across the SE of England (the orange line). At the beginning of the partial national lockdown on 5 November, the number of people testing positive every week in Bucks kept going up. In the second week of lockdown (week beginning 9 November) Bucks still had 800 to 900 new positive tests, which was about what would be expected for our region.
In the third week of lockdown (week commencing 16 November), however, the data suggests that there has been a huge drop in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Bucks, from 900 new cases per week to around 350. This drop in positive tests in Bucks is very different from what is happening across the SE of England, which shows the number of positive tests per week are still going up. The national picture is also of more new cases per week.
There are two possible reasons for the massive drop in people testing positive in Bucks in the third week of lockdown.
The first is that the partial national lockdown has had such a huge impact on people’s behaviour in Bucks in the last three weeks that many fewer people are meeting each other and so not catching Covid-19. The fact that Bucks is no longer matching the regional trend could mean that Bucks people have been much much better at observing the lockdown that other parts of the South East of England. On the other hand, there hasn’t been any evidence in ordinary life that Bucks people have been any better at observing lockdown than anywhere else.
The second reason for the massive drop in people testing positive in Bucks might be that the privatised test and trace system has failed in Buckinghamshire, so that the number of people who are positive for Covid-19 is being falsely reported. This could be because people couldn’t get tests when they needed them, or that the results of those tests haven’t been fed into the national data yet, or a combination of both. We know this has happened before with the privatised system.
WHAT DOES BUDS THINK?
The encouraging thing is that the partial national lockdown has certainly slightly slowed down the speed that the pandemic is growing. The number of people testing positive in Bucks is less than would have been the case had the lockdown not happened.
However, the evidence from the national picture and from the SE of England is that the pandemic is still growing worse during the lockdown. There are too many people still mixing together and the lockdown period has been too short for the pandemic to go into reverse, when the number of people with Covid-19 starts shrinking. If Bucks is typical of the SE of England, there should have been around 1100 more people testing positive for Covid-19 in Bucks this week, rather than the 350 actually recorded.
BuDS is not prepared to accept the latest weekly testing figures, showing only 356 new positive tests, at face value. We would like to see the data for a few more weeks to see if this is a real fall, or just looks life a fall because of a failure in the testing or data system.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?
The partial national lockdown has NOT yet brought the pandemic under control in Bucks. While the data is confusing, it is most likely that more or the same number of people in Bucks every week are being infected with Covid-19.
This means that it is still very important to keep yourselves and others safe. If you are clinically at high risk from Covid-19 because you are older or have been advised to shield, you MUST stay away from people who could infect you and, if you do go out, be very strict in observing social distance, wearing face masks and washing your hands. If you are lower risk, you need to be very careful not to give Covid-19 to someone who could die or get very ill if they catch it from you. Remember, 8 out of 10 people with Covid-19 don’t know they have it, but can still infect others.
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