Category: Covid-19

Covid Watch 179: Cases fall as testing begins to plummet but hospitals still in critical condition

Cases in England and in Shropshire are continuing to fall. We must though be cautious about numbers after the government withdrew free testing and closed testing centres across the country at the end of last month. In Shropshire, for example, PCR testing dropped by more than 70% in a week. However, it seems clear that the trend continues to be downwards. Despite Omicron being milder than the previous Delta variant of Covid-19, the number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 in Shropshire has been rising rapidly in recent weeks. That, along with higher than normal levels of staff sickness, has led the county’s health managers or declare the fourth critical incident this year, an incident that is now entering its second week. The queues of ambulances backing up outside the county’s A&E departments is at an all time high, with half of ambulance crews waiting more than an hour to hand over their patients.

This article by Simon Kolstoe, Reader in Bioethics and University Ethics Advisor, University of Portsmouth provides useful advice after all restrictions on movement, mask wearing and isolation ended. It first appeared on The Conversation. The most recent data show 17 new cases of Covid-19 detected each day in Ludlow.   ilze kalve/Shutterstock   We are all tired of COVID. But even though the news has moved on to other concerning geopolitical issues, it is a fact that COVID is still very much with us. Vaccines have certainly helped drive down its worst effects, but the disease is here to stay, and we must learn to live with it. So what should you do now if you get COVID? Anecdotally, many people seem to be ignoring the virus and carrying on regardless. This is perhaps not surprising given the end of self-isolation requirements in England, with Wales set to lift them very soon too. The message seems to be that COVID is no longer so important. But even as the rules do relax, living with COVID must not mean ignoring it. Here are five things that COVID has shown that we need to do, especially as cases are yet again increasing…

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Covid Watch 178: Here we go again – cases are rising quickly

It will not be news to many people that Covid-19 infections are once again soaring. This is due to a new variant of Omicron (Ba.2), which is even more infectious than the original variant (BA.1). In Shropshire, the current estimated infection rate is estimated to be around 1,065 infections per 100,000 people, higher than the delta phase last year but lower than the peak of 1,814 infections per 100,000 people in early January. The Office of National Statistics estimates that 3,485,700 people in England had Covid-19 in the week to 17 March (6.4% of population). In Ludlow, the latest estimated rate of infection to 20 March was 967 per 100,000 people, not far below the county rate. More than 40,000 people in Shropshire take a Covid test each week. I am concerned that this will fall with the government restricting the availability of lateral flow tests. These must be purchased after the end of this month. If testing reduces, how are we going to identify the next surge in cases and the potential impact on health services and the economy.

Covid Watch 176: Omicron cases at last fall locally and nationally after double peaks in January

The good news is that infection rates have been falling rapidly across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin. A surge in infections followed the arrival of the highly transmissible Omicron variant in December. A second lower surge occurred in early January after the schools returned. In the week to 5 February, an estimated 99.7% of Covid-19 cases in Shropshire were one of the three Omicron variants.  Infection rates in Shropshire have been plummeting since the end of January and are getting closer to the England average. In England, the current rate of infections over the last seven days is 425 per 100,000 people. In Shropshire, the rate is 460 and in Telford & Wrekin 550. The latest data for Ludlow town shows an infection rate of around 795 in the week to 6 February, well down from the infection rate of 1,200 a week earlier. In less cheerful news, 44 people with Covid-19 have died in the Royal Shrewsbury and Princes Royal Hospitals this year, bring the total for the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust to 705 deaths during the pandemic.

Covid-19 cases have fallen from their peak quickly but in Shropshire and England the infection rate is no longer falling significantly. In Telford & Wrekin, rates have fallen, risen and now appear to be falling again. Rates in Shropshire and Telford remain higher than those across England. Almost all cases are now the Omicron variant. It is different in its impacts from the Delta variant. More young people are affected by Omicron probably due to lower vaccination levels in younger cohorts. But there are also many Omicron cases among older people among who vaccination rates are high. This is probably due to vaccine escape – where vaccinated people can still catch the virus– or reinfection of people who have a previous Covid-19 infection.

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