Here’s my regular update on the COVID data. My purpose in sharing these updates is to help churches keep a view on what is happening as they make plans and risk assessments for re-opening. The risks that we have to consider include objective risks in terms of the potential to create a super spreading context and subjective risks in terms of the impact of decisions on confidence.
It remains my view that the key thing that will encourage people to return confidentially to normal in all areas of life is not the pronouncements of government but what is actually happening in terms of do cases seem to be growing, stabilising or falling and what impact that is having on hospitalisations (is the NHS coping) and deaths.
If we see a surge of cases that leads to hospitals being overwhelmed and people dying, especially if those are known personally then that is likely to reduce confidence in the safety of public gatherings. However, if we begin to see cases peaking, plateauing and falling then people will be more confident about returning to church.
A lot of hopes were raised therefore by the latest figures on Thursday. For the first time in a long while we saw a fall in numbers compared to the previous Thursday.
This fits with the overall trend this week where it looks like growth is slowing. Here’s the chart showing long term growth trends.
And here is one focusing in on the last two weeks.
Now, where we have to be careful is that as I explained recently, there’s a lot of uncertainty still. One swallow does not make a summer and there’s the risk that we can misinterpret things. There are three reasons to be cautious.
First, the high figures of up to 54k last week seem to link directly to the Euros semi-final and final. Therefore, we had a specific spike in cases. What we may well be seeing at the moment is not the beginning of cases falling as a return to normal growth.
results, although seeing the way the spike from the Euros came through bang on time at the weekend leaves me less sure about that.
Thirdly, we do not yet know how post July 19th figures will affect the data. We will start to get a feel for this by the middle of next week.
If we are seeing a genuine slowdown then the best case projection is that we will see cases begin to peak over the next fortnight at around 60 -80k of cases. However, it is still possible that we could see case growth accelerate again and it is still entirely possible that we could see over 150k daily cases by mid August. In other words, we should be encouraged by the data over the past few days but cautious about jumping too quickly to optimistic conclusions.