The UKHSA releases their respiratory infections report on Thursday afternoon, and I always try to analyse these and put the graphs here as soon as possible. The report covers the data up to the end of last week, so they are not completely up to date.
Daily data for England are also released once a week on Thursday afternoon and are more up-to-date. Scotland still releases data daily.
The latest update from yesterday shows the cases peaking in England and continuing to grow in Scotland. The drop in England is, of course, welcome, but I am somewhat sceptical about its lasting impact.
However, even in Scotland, there seems to be some evidence of slowing down – the case numbers in the 0-14, 20-24 and 75-84 age groups decline and are not massively growing in other groups.
We need to remember that these are reported cases, and Covid testing is being scaled down even further. More on it in another post.
New week, new data, but the old story. TL&DR: Covid is still a problem in England (and elsewhere), although the increase in cases and hospitalisation might be slowing down.
Other diseases I routinely monitor here follow their seasonal, pre-pandemic patterns, although Rhinoviruses remain high.
I have not looked at Rhinoviruses for a while. The UKHSA does not provide readily-available electronic data so I need to resort to scanning and digitizing.
Rhinoviruses are the primary cause of the common cold. They prefer temperatures 33-35C, typically found in human noses. Their spread is seasonal, but unlike flu or RSV they tend to peak twice a year, in Spring and in Autumn.
Initially suppressed in March/April 2020, they came back later in 2020 and were largely unaffected by subsequent lockdowns. In the 2022/23 season, the Autumn peak was followed by a drop in positivity but a large increase in the number of positive samples.
The positivity stays high, so there is indeed a lot of sniffing and sneezing around. It will be interesting to see how the Spring wave will develop, but we will likely continue with a lot of rhinoviruses around.
The hospitalisation numbers are slightly down, but there is probably no reason to celebrate yet. A high number of cases and positivity are sadly bound to be translated into a jump in hospital admission next week.
As mentioned in my earlier posts, this wave is different to the previous ones, and so it is difficult to make any predictions. I am worried about the rapid growth in India, as what affects the largest country in the world is bound to make its way here.
Similar increases have been seen elsewhere, for example, in Denmark, as excellent reporting by @BarclayBenedict shows:
Flu, RSV and Scarlet fever
I am lumping these three together, as they now follow a similar, pre-pandemic, seasonal pattern.
Pre-pandemic, both influenza and RSV peaked in late Autumn and Winter. Flu is a bit more complicated due to different Influenza A and B behaviours, but it was always strongly seasonal.
Both flu and RSV epidemics are now generally over, although flu seems to be lingering at low levels.
Scarlet fever is also seasonal, but the before the pandemic, the peaks were later and more spread out. This season was, of course, different due to the unprecedented outbreak levels in November and December.
But, when the top values are ignored, the current levels of Scarlet fever are within the pre-pandemic range – which encompassed such different epidemics as 2017-18 (peaking at over 2000 cases per week) and 2018-19 (peaking at 500 cases per week).
I expect the Scarlet fever numbers to linger near the current level for a few more weeks before slowly disappearing over Summer.
Covid pandemic is not over in the UK, and we are in the middle of a new wave with significant increases in 0-14 and 75+ age classes (data from the UKHSA).
YouGov – the UK’s primary opinion pollster – has just published the results of their survey on “living with Covid” attitudes. 59% of Britons supported the statement:
We need to learn to live with it and get back to normal
whereas only 31% felt close to the opinion that
We need to do more to vaccinate, wear masks and test
YouGov survey, March 2023
Only 26% in NRS Social Grade C2/D/E (most deprived) are content that life returned back to normal, compared with 31% A/B/C1 (least deprived), whereas 65% and 62%, respectively, think that it did not.
When it comes to choosing between “doing nothing” and “taking action”, the Social Grade does not make a huge impact – among A/B/C1, 57% wants to do nothing and 33% want to take action. For C2/D/E, it is 61% to 28%.
For 74% of those in 75+ category, life is still not back to normal, compared with 55% in 18-24 year-olds. But, interestingly, 22% of 18-24 do not know whether to choose between “doing nothing” (43%) and “taking action” (35%). For 65+, 59% is for “doing nothing”, 34% for “taking action”, and 7% do not know.
Are these fair questions?
I actually do not think these are fair questions. In my opinion, the two options are not exclusive, as I believe that we need to “learn to live with it” and do more to protect ourselves and others.
It is probably better to think of these two questions as: “doing little” vs. “going back to the dark ages of Covid”. I am not surprised by what most people chose.
I think that in order to “live with it”, we must do more to protect ourselves and others. Covid is not finished, and it is only going to get worse over months as the next wave sweeps through and generates more #LongCovid cases.
And yet, I am amazed that the society managed to get together so well during the lockdowns and to sacrifice so much, and yet is unwilling to engage in such easy and risk-free activities as wearing masks (when needed), testing, and arranging ventilation.
Vaccination is perhaps in a different category and I fully respect those who decide not to. And yet, the impact of vaccination on the reduction in death levels is without a doubt.