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After remaining low in June and July, the number of coronavirus cases in Hastings increased in late August, when the seven-day average briefly exceeded that for England. In September they have hovered between 10 and 20 (source: Public Health England).

Coronavirus statistical update: cases on the rise locally and nationally

Covid-19 is on the increase, in Hastings, elsewhere in East Sussex and nationally. At a time when the testing regime is crucially needed to track and contain the spread of the disease, limitations are appearing. Text by Nick Terdre, research and graphics by Russell Hall.

In recent days there has been a steady flow of new cases of coronavirus in Hastings – the closure of three town centre bars and restaurants reflected the increased presence of the infection in the town.

The Owl and Pussycat – one of three town centre venues which had to close after customers tested positive for Covid-19 (photo: Russell Jacobs).

A total of 17 cases were reported in the seven days to 14 September, making a seven-day rate of 21.6 per 100,000 of population. According to HOT researcher Russell Hall, that exceeds Hastings’ previous highest rate of 20.5 which was recorded on 8/9 May.

However, it is still far from the seven-day rate of 50 which is the point at which the authorities consider a place to be a hotspot with local restrictions likely.

Based on data up to 10 September Imperial College estimates a 96% probability that R, the retransmission rate, was above one in Hastings – meaning that on average each infected person was passing the infection on to more than one person, and therefore its incidence was growing. While there was only a 1% chance of the town becoming a hotspot, if the observed case rate stayed steady or increased, and R exceeded 1, in two weeks’ time the likelihood would rise to 17%, according to IC.

Among the 315 lower tier local authorities in England, on 9 September Hastings stood in 153rd position, or about halfway. Among the other East Sussex local authorities, Eastbourne ranked highest, at 101, and Lewes lowest, at 255. Wealden was number 188 and Rother 184.


On 10 September Eastbourne recorded 14 new cases, and its total for the seven days to 14 September was 29, giving it a seven-day infection rate of 28. Rother’s total was 17 and its rate 16.7, Lewes 12 and 10.7, and Wealden 21 and 16.1.

England rate climbs sharply

While Hastings’ rate in late August exceeded the rate for England for four days, the latter has now risen sharply, and on 9 September stood at 32.6. The R value for England, as calculated on 11 September, stood at 1-1.2, indicating that on average every 10 infected people were infecting between 10 and 12 others. The R value for the South East was the same, but in London and the North West, where many of the current hotspots are located, it was higher, at 1.1-1.3.

The low point in new cases appears to have been reached on 17 August, when 713 cases were confirmed in the UK. The trend has since been upward – on 13 September 3,330 cases were recorded. Deaths however remain low – only five on this day.

It is primarily younger people who are catching the infection – PHE data up to 3 September showed a weekly incidence rate per 100,000 of population of 41.6 for the 20-29 year age group, 25.8 for 30-39 year-olds and 22.7 for 10-19 year-olds.

Younger people are more resilient when infected, though the danger is that they may infect older people who are more likely to be seriously affected. For the time being hospital numbers remain low. On 13 September there were 17 hospital admissions in the South East, and 56 people were receiving hospital treatment, of whom only two were on ventilation.

Testing regime under strain

However, as the number of cases rise, questions are being asked about the capacity of the testing regime to cope with the increased workload. According to leaked reports seen by the Sunday Times at the weekend, there was a backlog of over 180,000 tests waiting to be analysed, and some batches were being sent to laboratories abroad.

The latest data on testing shows that a record number of tests, 205,659, were carried out on 10 September, when capacity also rose to a new record level of 243,817. Nevertheless, increasing demand is clearly outpacing increased capacity, and many of those applying to be tested are either turned down or offered slots in distant test centres.

Home test kits would appear to be the answer, but these also seem to be in short supply.

The result is that people displaying symptoms are obliged to self-isolate, when in many cases they do not have the virus and could be at work. Several hospitals have reported that a lack of tests is depriving them of staff and hindering efforts to restore the treatment of non Covid conditions, Chris Hopson, head of NHS Providers, told the Today programme today.

The latest Test and Trace statistics also indicate an increase in the extent of the infection – in the week to 2 September 9,864 people tested positive, an increase of 43% on the previous week. However, the system is showing no signs of becoming more efficient.

Of the 8,908 cases transferred to the contact-tracing system, 82.7% were reached and asked to provide details of their close contacts, yielding 32,359 such contacts. Where communication details were available, 79.4% of these were reached and asked to self-isolate. Of the total, however, only 69.2% were contacted, meaning that of all the positive cases, contacts related to only 57.2% were reached.


The positivity chart above, which shows the percentage of people testing positive, shows clearly that the proportion is increasing among those taking Pillar 2 tests, which are administered in the community, while the proportion taking Pillar 1 tests, in hospitals and other institutional settings, is stable.

 

Posted 18:24 Tuesday, Sep 15, 2020 In: Covid-19

1 Comment

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Keith Piggott

    Regret to say, new Mexican Wave of virulent disease always was predictable.

    In first instance exposing NHS unpreparedness. Pandemic histories evidently failed to teach those who all along have said, “lessons shall be learned”.

    Don’t blame government ‘short-Cummings’…. their’s is a political bubble of lay ignorance hoping to survive their next elections. KP

    Comment by Keith Piggott — Thursday, Sep 17, 2020 @ 11:18

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