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As happened in the second wave in December/January, weekly cases in Hastings have overtaken the average for England. The expectation is that the severity of the third wave will be kept to much lower levels by the effects of vaccination, but take-up rates in Hastings are relatively low.

Coronavirus statistical update: time to start learning to live with the virus

With the caveat that a final decision will be taken next Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday that most anti-Covid restrictions will be lifted on Monday 19 July. The move comes as cases are rising rapidly, but widespread vaccination is containing hospital admissions and deaths at low levels. Text by Nick Terdre, research and graphics by Russell Hall.

Rules on wearing face masks and social distancing will be scrapped, and there will be no limits on numbers at sporting events and entertainment venues as most restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19 are set to be scrapped on Monday 19 July, prime minister Boris Johnson told the nation yesterday.

These moves are part of a five-point plan which constitutes the final step out of lockdown, on which a final decision will be taken next Monday. This does not mean all precautions should be dropped, but it was up to people to make “informed decisions” for themselves on what measures were necessary, Johnson said.

Self-isolation will remain mandatory for those testing positive or told to isolate by Test & Trace, and some contingency measures would be retained to manage the virus in higher risk periods such as the winter. But the emphasis would be on strengthened guidance, Johnson said.

New mantra

The new mantra is: It’s time to learn to live with the virus. The government’s policy is based on what the new health secretary Sajid Javid called “the huge wall of defence that we’ve built with the vaccines” – although cases are rising rapidly – a third wave of infections is under way – widespread vaccination is keeping the lid on the severity of illness, hospital admissions and deaths.

On 5 July 27,334 new cases were reported in the UK, making a total of 178,128 in the seven days to that date – that was an increase of 53.2% compared with the previous seven-day period.

In Hastings 297 people tested positive in the week to 3 July, a rate of 320.5 per 100,000 of population. As such the town’s seven-day rate was well above the England average of 251.9.

Elsewhere in East Sussex the weekly rates remained well below the England level. Rother recorded 133 new cases  in the week ending 3 July and a rate of 138.4, Eastbourne 68 (40.7), Lewes 193 (186.9) and Wealden 164 (101.6).

Third wave

In his weekly commentary last Friday the East Sussex director of Public Health Darrell Gale said it was clear we were in a third wave, but with very different factors at play from the previous two waves. “This time around, for those that have had their vaccine, the spread of infection has been contained and the severity of infection reduced,” he said.

In East Sussex, the age group suffering most new infections is 20-29 year-olds, particularly men, followed by 10-19 year-olds – many of whom are unvaccinated. Numbers are much fewer for 50-year-olds and above, most of whom have already had two doses.

On the healthcare front, though admissions to East Sussex hospitals have just started to rise, the numbers of Covid-19 patients are still very low – seven on 29 June, only one of whom was on mechanical ventilation. Currently only about 3% of cases are being hospitalised compared with 10% during the second wave.

While bed occupancy in East Sussex hospitals has generally been at or above 80%, as the graph shows, Covid patients are barely on the radar.

Also as reported on 5 July, there were nine daily deaths within 28 days of a positive test in England, compared with a peak in excess of 1,200 in January.

According to Public Health England, vaccines have so far prevented an estimated 7.2m infections and 27,000 deaths in England alone.

Peak still to be reached

Meanwhile the third wave still has some way to run before peaking. Prof Christina Pagel of University College London tweeted on 2 July that nationally cases were doubling about every nine days, which projecting forward to 19 July implies more than 100,000 cases a day. Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme today, Javid gave a more modest estimate of around 50,000 by 19 July and 100,000 later in the summer.

On the same programme, Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College said there was the potential for very large numbers of cases -  150-200,000 a day could still cause pressure on the health system.

Separately Imperial College estimates that R, the reproduction rate, is well above one in Hastings and that the town’s infection rate could be above 500 per 100,000 by 19 July. That is the outcome of modelling based on data up to 26 June, and the data since does not indicate any change in the upward trend.

Delta continues to strengthen its position as the dominant strain of Covid. An additional 50,824 UK cases were confirmed by genomic sequencing in the seven days to 30 June, compared with 823 new Alpha cases. But the cumulative total of Delta cases is still far less than Alpha cases, 161,981 against 275,233.

PHE figures reported on 2 July show the cumulative total of Delta cases for Hastings at 99, up from 44 seven days earlier. As there is no information on the proportion of cases sampled, the actual proportion of Delta cases in the town cannot be calculated.

Elsewhere in East Sussex the totals of confirmed Delta cases were Rother 56 (32 seven days earlier), Eastbourne 55 (36), Lewes 89 (56) and Wealden 113 (72).

The vaccine drive continues, with 45.4m of the UK population having received a first dose by 4 July and 33.7m a second dose. These are equivalent to about 82% and 61% of the adult population respectively.

According to the prime minister, the interval between jabs is to be reduced to eight weeks for under-40s, as it already is for older age-groups, so that all over-18s will be double-dosed by mid September.

Vaccines effective for younger age-groups

Meanwhile just one dose of vaccine has been shown to be very effective against symptomatic infection in under 40-year-olds, who account for the majority of the unvaccinated population. According to estimates for these age-groups published for the first time by PHE, a single dose of Pfizer is 61% effective and Moderna 72%.

These levels are expected to rise after two doses, but as vaccines were only offered to the under-40s on 10 May, there is insufficient data as yet to make an estimate. AstraZeneca is not mentioned as this vaccine is not being offered to these age groups.

In Hastings, where vaccination rates lag the rest of East Sussex, younger unvaccinated people could become more vulnerable to infection when restrictions are lifted. Looking at vaccine take-up by age in Hastings, while 80% of all age-groups of 50 and above have had one dose, for under-40s it ranges from about 65% in the 35-39 age group down to less than 40% for 18-24 year-olds.

Meanwhile 80% of all those of 55 years upwards have had two doses, but for under-40s the rate declines from about 25% for 35-39 year-olds to about 15% for 18-24 year-olds.

And as HOT has pointed out before, vaccination rates in some Hastings neighbourhoods remain very low: in Central St Leonards up to 4 July, 64.9% had had a first dose and 46.7% a second, and while for Central Hastings the figures were 65.7% and 46%.

The Sussex Health and Care Partnership is laying on walk-in clinics across East Sussex and Brighton to increase vaccination opportunities. Clinics were held at St Leonards Medical Centre on Saturday 3rd and St Matthew’s church hall on Sunday 4th – at the former second doses were on offer for the first time.

 

This article was amended by Nick Terdre on 7 July 2021.

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Posted 10:02 Tuesday, Jul 6, 2021 In: Covid-19

2 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Chris S

    More than a little rushed, it’s bonkers. They should wait until all those who WANT to be vaccinated have had two doses, plus three weeks, before relaxing anything. They are being short-changed; because of this they are sitting ducks for full-on covid; the high number of cases will allow covid to mutate. The government simply cannot face making hard decisions. Nobody I know except anti-vaxxers wants relaxations in the face of dramatically rising covid cases.

    Comment by Chris S — Thursday, Jul 8, 2021 @ 00:37

  2. Passing-By

    Thank you for keeping us up to date for such a long time.

    It sounds a little rushed
    They ought to have kept masks mandatory in places such as public transport or at least insisted on some form of ventilation

    Comment by Passing-By — Tuesday, Jul 6, 2021 @ 23:24

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