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Daily confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hastings have never exceeded six. The last month has seen only three cases.

Coronavirus statistical update: Hastings – Covid coldspot

Ever since HOT’s statistical reports on the coronavirus began, it has been clear that Hastings has been relatively little affected, both in number of cases and deaths. There is no explanation for this remarkable fact yet, though investigations are under way. Research and graphics by Russell Hall, text by Nick Terdre.

Although Hastings does not have a large BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic)  population, it ranks high both in deprivation and the size of its elderly population, both factors associated with higher levels of incidence of Covid-19. Yet the town stands out from other local authorities in East Sussex and elsewhere in the country because of the low incidence of both C-19 cases and deaths.

The phenomenon is evident in the rolling seven-day average of confirmed cases of coronavirus in East Sussex local authorities as plotted using Public Health England (PHE) data in the interactive graph below.

Hastings’ exceptionalism is noted in the Covid-19 outbreak control plan published by East Sussex County Council at the end of June, which states:

“Hastings is worthy of particular attention as it is currently ranked 314 lowest out of 316 Lower Tier Local Authorities from Pillar 1 testing. This is particularly striking in the context of Hastings being linked to Ashford in Kent which has had a much higher rate of pillar 1 cases, as well as Hastings having high levels of deprivation – a factor usually associated with poorer health. More work is needed to understand this variation and the underlying protective characteristics, as well as the need for a more complete picture of all confirmed COVID-19 cases.”

The plan notes that work is under way with the University of Sussex to “understand whether there are particular protective factors at play in Hastings, and also to explore whether these same factors may hamper or support the area through reset and recovery.”

When the plan was drawn up, it is evident that ESCC and its partners did not have access to full data, as is indicated by its reference to Pillar 1 testing (of NHS and other healthcare workers). As noted in our previous statistical update, this lack made a huge difference in some places, notably Leicester, where the eventual publication of Pillar 2 testing results (on care home staff and residents and members of the community displaying symptoms) revealed a massive increase in cases.

In contrast, for Hastings and in East Sussex generally the addition of Pillar 2 results indicated a greater incidence but the same general profile, with Hastings by some way the least affected of the East Sussex districts and boroughs. The interactive graph above shows roughly double the incidence since late May in Hastings following the addition of Pillar 2 cases.

The latest PHE figures for confirmed cases, showing Pillars 1 and 2 combined for East Sussex local authorities up to 13 July, are as follows. Rother has also had relatively few cases compared with Eastbourne, Lewes and Wealden.

Confirmed cases

Hastings 128
Rother 185
Eastbourne 408
Lewes 368
Wealden 449
East Sussex 1,538

Deaths

Hastings 10
Rother 54
Eastbourne 68
Lewes 113
Wealden 113
East Sussex 358

These are the figures released on 14 July by the Office for National Statistics on deaths occurring up to 3 July and registered up to 11 July. There was one new death registered for Hastings, bringing the total to 10. Of these, eight occurred in hospital, one in a care home and one in a hospice.

Although in the early stages of response to the pandemic, care homes were put at risk by the authorities’ insistence that elderly patients should be dispatched to them from hospital without testing whether they had the coronavirus, Hastings has also escaped lightly, not only in the number of fatalities but also the number of outbreaks.

PHE statistics show that from early March up to 5 July, there were eight confirmed or suspected outbreaks of the virus in the town’s 66 care homes (only the first outbreak is included in these statistics, so the actual number may be higher). In other words 12% of care homes suffered an outbreak.

Rother recorded 18 outbreaks in 73 homes (25%), Eastbourne 29 in 66 (44%), Lewes 19 in 43 (44%) and Wealden 32 in 65 (49%). For East Sussex as a whole there were 106 outbreaks in 313 care homes (34%).

While unable to supply exact figures, a spokesperson for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust told HOT today that there are only around 20 coronavirus patients in the region’s hospitals, and either one or none in critical care.

Hastings and Eastbourne are also among the top ten most active towns in England for volunteer activity under the aegis of NHS Volunteer Responders, delivering food and medicines to those unable to go out, providing transport to GP and hospital appointments, keeping in touch through ‘check-in and chat’ phone calls, and so on. According to NHS England, Hastings is in third place, with 37.8 tasks undertaken per 1,000 population and Eastbourne in sixth, with 29.1.

Caveats

A number of caveats need to be borne in mind regarding the PHE statistics:

  1. Cumulative case numbers include people who have recovered.
  2. With respect to testing, cases are reported when lab tests are completed, which may be a few days after initial testing.
  3. Testing capacity is increasing, resulting in a greater number of observed cases.
  4. Testing capacity constraints mean there are likely many more cases than currently recorded here.
  5. Deaths recorded by Public Health England include only those in hospital and exclude those in the community and care homes.
  6. There is a delay in many deaths being recorded from a few days to up to two weeks.
  7. Deaths tend to be recorded around three weeks after first symptoms in fatal cases.

 

Posted 21:54 Tuesday, Jul 14, 2020 In: Covid-19

8 Comments

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  1. Shane O’Leary

    Without sufficient testing data it’s all a bit of a thumb suck, but I do think it’s possible that our ‘cold’ status may soon change.

    Example, the Elm Tree Boot Fair claimed that their event would require visitors to be masked, gloved and to maintain social distancing.

    None of that happened this morning and the organisers claim attendance of 950 people on their facebook page.

    Whether this is complacency or arrogance is moot without testing.

    Comment by Shane O'Leary — Sunday, Jul 26, 2020 @ 17:59

  2. Lynda Honyben

    I was ill with COVID 19 symptoms December. January and February when it wasn’t being tested for and assumed to be something else perhaps herd immunity has happened in Hastings and we should be testing for antibodies to check.

    Comment by Lynda Honyben — Monday, Jul 20, 2020 @ 11:18

  3. Andrew Colquhoun

    I was really interested to read Nick and Russell’s piece in HOT on Covid in Hastings. I think that one significant factor in Hastings’s thankfully low incidence rate might have been the low commuting rate into London, so relatively few people were bringing the virus back here.

    If one looks at the main commuting counties surrounding London all have had much higher numbers of cases. Within Sussex, this was most marked by the Mid Sussex DC area which is heavy commuting territory and which has had much higher rates, despite being much more prosperous than Hastings. Poor rail links might have “saved” us from the worst – so far.

    Comment by Andrew Colquhoun — Sunday, Jul 19, 2020 @ 12:57

  4. Passing by

    and the obvious
    town is spread out and relatively small gatherings are held outside

    Comment by Passing by — Saturday, Jul 18, 2020 @ 09:30

  5. Liz Coleman

    If you look at http://www.eastsussexjsna.org.uk/JsnaSiteAspx/media/jsna-media/documents/localbriefings/ESiF/Population-estimates-In-Brief-June-2019.pdf it says:

    “Almost 1/3 of Rother’s population (31.9%) are aged 65+, ranking second highest in of all districts/UAs, behind North Norfolk. Rother also has the highest proportion of over 85s in the country at 4.8%, and Eastbourne has the fifth highest (4.4%) Only 19.8% of Hastings population is aged 65+”

    I think one of the main reasons is we don’t have so many elderly here…in part the hills putting them off!

    Comment by Liz Coleman — Thursday, Jul 16, 2020 @ 12:19

  6. Penny

    All figures seem questionable as there is little regular testing going on.
    For accurate ratings this would be required on a much wider scale.
    I haven’t noticed much observance of social-distancing, and mask-wearing on pubic transport, shops and in crowded places is ignored by many.
    I have to dodge and zigzag around to avoid people walking into my “safe” space. Maybe a claxon would come in handy?

    Comment by Penny — Thursday, Jul 16, 2020 @ 08:24

  7. passing by

    a few possible reasons

    fewer BAME equals fewer deaths

    lack of good infrastructure means less commuting;less spreading

    care homes went into lock down weeks before everyone else
    care home workers work in one place

    already existing structures to help the poor and vulnerable

    council acted swiftly, so did gp surgeries and police

    generally everyone complied with the rules and adapted quickly with lots of outside spaces

    it’s windy

    Comment by passing by — Wednesday, Jul 15, 2020 @ 13:34

  8. Bryan Fisher

    This trend in Hastings is, of course, a relief to those who have not suffered or died; but it seems all the agencies are perplexed as to why Hastings has done better than most. It certainly is not a case of better PPE supplies, better protection of care homes, or even a better attitude to self-protection. The article correctly points towards existing higher deprivation and age-levels; so this conundrum needs to be investigated by a learned body in case lessons really can be learnt and applied elsewhere.

    Comment by Bryan Fisher — Wednesday, Jul 15, 2020 @ 12:38

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