On everyone’s mind at the moment is where the next spike, wave or ripple might occur. The amount of information can be overwhelming and the ability to interpret this can be out of reach for many.
We have applied a bit of science to the problem, and:
Captured daily Local Authority totals
Aggregated to ICSs for greater stability and usefulness
Created the ability to look at local data in number of views including rolling average, rates per 1000 and raw data
Applied statistical tests to see if cases were rising and significant
Used geospatial mapping
We’ve all been talking about what’s happening in London and around the country in the unfolding of Covid and the potential for a 2nd wave. There is no question we are experiencing a second wave. The question is when it will break, what impact it has, and how many there will be in future.
We have been looking at what’s going on in Covid cases, zeroing in on the benchmark of 14 day rolling rate per 100k population. 40 has been the number that’s been used as a key benchmark for risk of further lockdowns. If you look at what’s happening around the country there are 15 ICS’s where Covid levels have now breached this threshold — most in the midlands and north as well as one part of London.
A closer look at the top three in the country show sharp increases in Birmingham and Solilhul, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Harrogate. These three areas show rates rising faster and to higher levels than were experienced in the peak of the pandemic in these locations, or indeed in London. London peaked at between 100-140 14-day cases per 100k and these three areas peaked between 100-120 14-day cases per 100k. The three ICSs are at levels now of 100-140 and the shape of the curve suggests the case load is continuing to rise quickly.
Turning to look at London, the rolling 14 day per 100k has risen to levels last seen on March 23—the day of lockdown—although the rate of increase is clearly not as steep as then. East London is the only part of London that comes over the 40 threshold although other areas have also risen albeit not as much or as quickly.
Does this mean another lockdown is coming then?
It is important to point out that where we are is very different than on March 23. The volume of testing has dramatically increased from levels that were extremely low to nearly 200,000 per day. To recap, the only people being tested were patients at hospital who were symptomatic. As as result, there was certainly higher levels of Covid cases than was detected by tests in March. As a consequence, it is likely that a significant part of the increase in positive cases has been due to the increase in levels of testing.
Looking at admissions provides a better clue for what is going on. It is clear that admissions have risen from the lowest points of the summer. It is also clear that the levels of admissions remain a small fraction of what they were even in March, let alone at the peak in April.
This is not a reason to be sanguine as admissions lag infections by 1-2 weeks and so the impact of the rapid rises may not be felt yet. Furthermore, as the virus does not survive long outside and in sunshine its transmission will naturally have been lower in summer months. We can expect to see more admissions from rising cases and also from less sunshine and more time indoors.
In conclusion, there is real reason for concern especially in hotspots in the north which have shot through the previous peak albeit it with much higher levels of testing than at the peak. There will be strong reservations to lockdown London again because of the damage this will do to the UK economy as the engine of its growth. Hence, you see the current combination of new restrictions to limit spread whilst enabling schools and businesses to remain open. As we did before we will watch very closely what happens now in admissions and cases.
Update: 25 Sep 2020
Against the backdrop of the drumbeat this week of second wave and rising cases tit was useful to share latest perspective of what’s going on. Quite clearly cases are rising across the country. Across the country cases have increased: from 1000 cases a day to 6000 cases a day—an increase of 6x over a period of 6 weeks. It has doubled in the past week, which is an acceleration.
However, the picture is highly varied. The surge in cases is being driven by a number of places in the north and midlands where cases are 3-4 x what they are in London and 5x the rest of the country. The pattern of rising cases was general—not just in the north--but London’s cases have crested again and now falling. And the rest of the country has crested.