COVID update

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Here’s a quick update on where we are on UK COVID data as England prepares for the final lifting of all restrictions. Note that there will still be guidance in place and that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have different regulations and guidance in place.

I’ve stopped providing regular reporting of case data but as we reach this milestone and with some questions about the data circulating I thought a one off update might be helpful.

The crucial thing to note is that case numbers have continued to fall. My expectation was that there might be a plateauing of cases particularly affected by schools transmission through January and February. However, we have continued to see case numbers falling. We are currently in the school half term period and that should supress numbers further.

 

You may have picked up that as we’ve seen a few times during the pandemic, there’s been a little bit of a dispute around data, particularly with the ZOE App recently showing a different trend, reporting higher cases and at one point increasing case numbers. As I’ve mentioned previously, there is a challenge in terms of getting accurate numbers.

The government dashboard data depends on reported cases. This means that it doesn’t include cases where the person didn’t test or report their test and when they received a false negative. At the same time it may well include false negatives. Meanwhile, the ZOE App relies on a community of participants who self report symptoms. This information is then used to project an estimate of the number of cases overall. At the start of the pandemic this was probably the gold standard measure as at that stage we did not have mass testing. However, I suspect that with vaccination, mass testing and a drop off from such apps of all but the most concerned about COVID that it is less reliable now. Cases are probably higher than official figures but lower than the numbers published via ZOE and other estimated numbers.

However, the only sure way to get a feel for the trends in the epidemic are the hospitalisation and mortality numbers. As you can see below, we’ve continued to see the number of hospital admissions fall.

We still have a little way to go before admissions are back to pre Omicron levels but we should expect to see them back at around 700-800 within the next ten days.

Meanwhile deaths are continuing to fall. Like admissions, there is still some way to go but this is a lag measure where we would expect to see the current situation with regard to cases reflected in mortality figures in about a months time.

The data does look encouraging and this is probably helpful to share with people who remain extremely anxious and cautious about attending church. The risks are substantially lower now. Here’s my updated risk assessment

By now, I would expect most churches to be functioning as close to normal as possible. For example I would not be expecting face masking to be a requirement. I would encourage people to be sensitive to one another’s needs as some will remain more cautious than others. Additionally, I’d continue to provide for additional spacing in capacity calculations.

I would encourage church leaders to set aside time to visit people who were regular attendees prior to the pandemic who have not yet returned. I am planning a post shortly about things to include in a conversation.

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