COVID-19 Update

Here’s my latest update of COVID-19 data. The purpose is to help church leaders have a feel for what is happening in order to make appropriate plans and risk assessments

The UK stats over the last few days have shown a continued steady increase in cases of around about 14% (week day to week day comparison). The average number of cases reported each day currently sits at 31,373. The last two days of reported data are 36,572 (19th August) and 37,314 (20th August).

Here are the charts showing the daily reported cases and % increases.

daily reported cases & average
% increase/decrease

Given some of the dire predictions of where cases could be, things are a lot better than expected. However, there are two issues for us here. First of all that the current case numbers are likely to continue to give concern to the more cautious and the vulnerable. Secondly, we probably would prefer to see case numbers dropping a bit before the Autumn.

So, what is causing the case increase? Well, one factor to be aware of is where case numbers are coming from. Well, first of all, Andrew Lilico has been tracking case increase by age category. See:

Whilst immediately post unlocking, we saw cases increasing predominantly among 20s -34s, no doubt driven by the re-opening of clubs and hospitality, growth in recent days has primarily been among the under 19s and the over 65s. It is possible that what we’ve seen is two things here. First, a filter through to older generations from the under 34s surge. This may also have affected the hospital admission rate. It is also possible that we are seeing some waning in vaccine efficacy among those who received their jabs earliest. Secondly there may be some behavioural factors affecting under 19s with some suggestions that this could include attendance at summer festivals. It is also worth remembering that last week saw exam results and no doubt some consequential celebrations and socialising.

However, I think there is something else we need to pay attention to and that is that we are currently seeing significant divergence between the experience of England and Wales versus the situation in Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you look at English data on its own, then the picture is far more steady that what we are seeing for the whole UK. Here are the charts for cases and for % growth.

Growth in England is averaging around 4% and was 7.5%, 5.9% and 3.1% respectively over the past 3 days. That compares with an average of 9.6% and 14.49%, 10.57% and 14.1% respectively for the last three days in the whole United Kingdom.

Now look at Scotland. Here are the case figures

And here is the % growth

So what is going on? Well, I suspect there are multiple factors here. First of all, Scottish schools tend to return much earlier than England and have begun to do so over the past couple of weeks and that plus the mass testing of youngsters will affect the data. Secondly, Scotland implemented its final stages of ending lockdown later than England on the 9th August. We’ll now be seeing the impact of any changes north of the border. The impact seems far more extreme than in England though that could be accounted for by three things. First that differences at pervious stages may well have led to different behavioural impact, second that England’s move out of lockdown followed shortly after the post Euros case peak and the consequential “ping-demic” meaning that many were still self-isolating in the week following the 19th July. This may have helped England move slowly through stage 4. Third, it may be that the stats among a smaller overall population are likely to show greater volatility – it’s worth noting that the Netherlands saw similar dramatic increases in cases following the re-opening of clubs and hospitality.

It’s important to be alert to these factors and how they might be affecting cases, particularly the differences we are seeing around the United Kingdom. There is enough case growth in England to encourage ongoing caution but things may be better than the UK headlines suggest.