Commentary

Doc Hines - Covid News & Views - 16 March 2022

Despite concerns that people were likely to drop routine testing if they were no longer required to, the British public have responded to the new surge in cases by continuing to test. The number of tests done in the last 7-day period continues to rise, the latest figure for tests done is now 4,867,725. Compared to a week previously this is 418,000 more tests, a rise of almost 10%. It would seem that we can act responsibly and with common sense when we need to.


The number of positive results in the last 7 days was 516,284. This is a large rise of 170,000 over the previous week, almost half as many again at 49.4%. The positivity rate has risen still further and is now 649.4 per 100,000 of the population.


The hospitals are beginning to struggle again, and it is reported that the Red and Green labels for wards are being reintroduced. Over the last week 11,047 patients were admitted. This is 1,912 more in just a week. Put another way its over 20% more in a week.


The total number occupying a hospital bed was 14,078 yesterday compared with only 11, 600 a week earlier. The number on a ventilator remains quite low at 281, only a small rise from last week.


The number of deaths in this last week was 744. This is a slight drop of just 34 compared to the previous week.


Someone who has always been shown to have plenty of common sense, the First Minister in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she is not going to drop the compulsory use of masks on public transport as planned in view of the surge in cases.


There is still no sign of details of 4th jabs being collected; it is going to be important to see the numbers taking up the offer of another jab. The figures are static with 91.7% having a first jab,85.6% a second one and 67% a third jab.


I had reason to visit our local hospice recently and was really impressed with their Covid security and the excellent levels of care being given.


I note today the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro has suspended all hospital visiting again partly because of rising cases but also because of staff shortages.


Please do not forget to comment on the national handling of the Covid pandemic, especially what went well, what went badly and what we should do differently in the next pandemic. Please just make a comment or send me a private response if you prefer.


A new variant has emerged known as Deltacron. Cases have so far been found in France, and the USA, with just a few in the Netherlands and Demark. The genomic sequencing has been done in France. One patient has been reported to have contracted Covid with two different strains, both Omicron and Deltacron, at the same time.

One good thing to come out of the Covid restrictions is that open air weddings are going to be allowed after the pandemic is all over. There has been such a positive response from special venues that this will be encouraged in the future.


Some of you have asked me to try and breakdown the Covid deaths to see exactly what is happening, which people are dying and what effect does vaccines play. This is actually very difficult but I will try. I have already explained the difficulties of defining a Covid death. Whether it was caused by Covid or the patient had Covid but died of something else.


The Office For National Statistics has published a report entitled “Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional: Week ending 4 March 2022.” The weeks of the year are identified by number counting from the New Year. So the week ending 4th March is week 9. In week 9 a total of 11,225 deaths from all causes were registered in England and Wales. Here is the first difficulty . it relates to when the death was registered not when it occurred. There were 19 excess deaths. Excess deaths are calculated by taking the average number of deaths in any given week compared to the average figure for the last 5 years. In the week we are studying there was only a 0.2% rise in the number of deaths. This is not really a significant difference. At the height of the pandemic it was very significant.


In week 9, 621 deaths involving Covid were registered in England and a further 48 deaths in Wales. Of the total of 670 deaths 65% or 439 deaths had Covid as the underlying cause, compared with 65.7% in week 8. This means that about 2/3rd of the deaths with Covid mentioned on the certificate are largely due directly to Covid and 1/3rd are due primarily due to something else such as a heart attack, a stroke, or multiple injuries but who also at the time were also suffering from Covid.


If we look at two full years from 13th March 2020 to 4th March 2022. The excess deaths above the 5 year average was 120,748 This may be a more accurate figure of the total number of deaths from Covid rather than with Covid.


Back to week 9, the place of death has been looked at. Of those dying in private homes there was a 21.1% rise above the 5-year average whereas the number dying in hospital was 5.6% below the 5 year average. In Care Homes it was 11.5% below the 5 year average. The figures take a bit of understanding. I suspect it was simply there was less capacity in hospital and care homes with less patients being admitted. The deaths in care homes initially were very high as they were woefully underprepared to undertake barrier or isolation care and had limited equipment and often lacked basic Public Health skills.


I am trying to find data on deaths and immunisation rates but probably two thirds of all deaths were in people not fully immunised. Breaking them down further is more difficult. The elderly and the most vulnerable without a fourth jab are the group most at risk of dying now. A few months ago, it was younger members of the population most affected. I will report more in due course.


Finally, despite the relaxation of rules guidance still exists and plan K is the one to follow. Do not forget in these last two weeks of March to order a supply of lateral flow tests before you are charged for them. You can order them up to 7 every three days from the NHS app, or by ringing 119. Many chemist outlets no longer have stocks. If you know where there are tests lying idle please rescue them and ensure they can be used.


Common Sense means staying safe. Look after others and please give me feedback.

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