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Covid-19 in the UK - What do the stats tell us about the current situation?

The country has seen a new variant of coronavirus spread through parts of London, the south-east and Wales.

IRELAND LAST NIGHT joined a number of European countries in banning inbound travel from Britain. 

The country has seen a new variant of coronavirus spread through parts of London, the south-east and Wales. 

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) yesterday issued a threat assessment of the new strain. It said there is a lack of evidence about how severe the new strain is but said that it has an estimated potential to increase the reproductive number (R) by 0.4 or greater, and is estimated to be 70% more transmissible than previous strains.

The new variant was first detected in September and by November, about one quarter of all cases in London were identified as the new strain. This reached nearly two-thirds of cases last week. 

Screenshot 2020-12-21 at 15.06.39 - Display 2 Source: UK.gov

Excluding Northern Ireland – which health officials here are watching closely – there was a daily average of 22,800 cases per day in England over the last seven days. Wales – where the new strain is spreading – has seen a seven-day average of 3,148 cases per day while Scotland has seen an average of 768 cases per day. 

The new variant is behind a recent rapid rise in Wales, which has a population of just over 3.1 million.

Wales’ health minister Vaughan Gething told BBC News On Sunday that the new variant was “effectively seeded” across the country.

Even before the new variant was identified, Britain’s cases were rising following a relaxation of restrictions in October. 

On 1 September, 1,246 new cases were reported across England, Scotland and Wales. By 1 November this had reached 22,569. 

Cases dipped significantly in mid-December but have since risen to an all-time high, due in no small part to the new strain of coronavirus. 

There were a further 35,928 cases of Covid-19 reported across the United Kingdom yesterday.

Incidence rates and testing 

Comparing Britain and Northern Ireland to other European countries – many of which in recent days have implemented tight restrictions leading up to Christmas – a 14-day incidence rate of 348.2 cases per 100,000 is higher than France (236.3), Germany (341.1) and Ireland (112.2) according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Screenshot 2020-12-21 at 15.09.12 - Display 2 Number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the United Kingdom (UK) as of December 17, 2020, by country/region.

Looking at England, of its 315 local areas, 282 (89%) have seen a rise in case rates in the seven days up to 15 December. 

Thurrock has the highest rate in the country after seeing the largest week-on-week jump in England, with 1,676 new cases recorded in the seven days to December 15 – the equivalent of 961.3 cases per 100,000 people.

This is up from 349.9 in the seven days to December 9.

Basildon in Essex has the second highest rate, up from 566.2 to 924.7, with 1,731 new cases.

Havering in London is in third place, where the rate has risen from 473.5 to 919.7, with 2,387 new cases.

Hospitalisations & ICU

There are currently 1,078 people in hospital with Covid-19 in Scotland including 59 people in Intensive Care Units (ICU).

The number of Covid patients in hospital on 17 December was 2,231 across Wales, 265 (13%) more than the week before. 

In England, the total number of Covid-19 patients in hospital stood 15, 465 on 16 December. 

The rise in hospitalisations in Britain began in October and continued through to November as case numbers also rose.

A third of major hospital trusts in England currently have more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave of the virus.

In two regions – eastern England and south-west England – more than half of trusts are above their first-wave peak.

Other trusts have seen their numbers rise so rapidly that they could pass their first-wave peak within days.

A recent analysis found that of the 127 acute hospital trusts with a 24-hour (type 1) A&E department in England, 42 (33%) had more Covid-19 patients on December 18 than at the peak of the first wave in the spring.

Examples include:

– Mid & South Essex, which recorded 450 confirmed Covid-19 patients on December 18 compared with a first-wave peak of 374.

– East Suffolk & North Essex, which had 185 patients compared with a first-wave peak of 143.

– Barking, Havering & Redbridge, where there were 300 patients on December 18 versus a first-wave peak of 245. This is currently the only trust in London to have passed the peak.

– Gloucestershire, which had 171 patients compared with a first-wave peak of 149.

Northern Ireland

A further 555 new cases were announced in Northern Ireland today, along with seven further deaths. 

In the last seven days, 45,593 tests for Covid-19 have been carried out in Northern Ireland compared to 41,241 over the previous seven days. 

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Of these, 3,965 have been positive. This compares with 3,273 positive tests in the seven days prior.

In the early autumn, Derry and Strabane was leading the way in terms of the worst affected areas of Northern Ireland.

But, now, other areas are also being badly affected. In information provided on the 7-day rate per 100,000 people in Northern Ireland, the worst affected area is Fermanagh & Omagh which has an incidence of 291.9 per 100k people in the last week alone.

This is followed by Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon at 262.5 and Mid & East Antrim at 246.0. 

Among the 3,965 cases in the past week, people aged between 20 and 39 accounted for 1,315 of them. A further 1,212 cases were detected among people aged 40-59, with the remaining cases spread across other age groups.

In the past seven days in Northern Ireland, 218 people with Covid-19 were admitted to hospital compared with 168 over the previous seven days. 

In the kinds of trends we’ve seen above, the rise in hospitalisations began in October and continued through to November as case numbers also rose.

From a high of 622 inpatients with Covid-19 in November, there were 446 patients in Northern Irish hospitals with Covid-19 at midnight last night. 

Earlier today First Minister Arlene Foster said that four cases of Covid-19 in the North have been detected as having a “different sequencing than other cases”.

Foster said it is “probable” that the new variant of the coronavirus detected in London and other parts of Britain was now present in Northern Ireland but said it cannot be “definitively” confirmed at this time.

In these four cases, samples have been sent to England to confirm if they are from the new strain.

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