Officials are concerned about the recent spike in coronavirus cases. The number of newly diagnosed cases has exceeded 2,000 in the past three days.
The average rate of new infections is now four times higher than it was in mid-July. The hike is real, but is it just as steep as it sounds? Here are five things to consider.
1. The “peak” was an understatement
The confirmed cases chart is a scheme that we all are used to. Shows number of positive Covid-19 tests daily. In April, there were days when 6,000 new cases were recorded per day so the level of infections in the past few days seems like a way towards that peak.
But at the start of the pandemic, the UK was largely only able to test hospital patients. There was a limited testing capacity.
This targeted testing means the infection in the community is completely missed, while we now have mass testing in the community. This means that if we compare the numbers now with the numbers during the peak, we are basically comparing apples and pears.
Estimates from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggest that there were possibly as many as 100,000 cases per day at the end of March. Community testing began in the second half of May only.
It is clear that not all cases are now being captured, although the monitoring program run by the Office for National Statistics indicates that a large proportion of them are, while earlier in the epidemic only 5% of cases may have been detected.
Therefore, while cases may be rising, the infection level is still very low compared to the peak.
2. An additional test is a factor
Even after the start of group tests, the number of tests taken daily and weekly continues to increase.
This is due to the opening of more testing centers and the increase in the capacity of laboratories to process tests. This means we are able to look more closely at the spread of the virus in the community than when we first started mass testing.
If you look at the trend in terms of positive states only, the pattern will look like this:
But we have to take into account that big increase in testing – there has been an 80% hike since mid-June. When you adjust the number of tests performed and calculate the percentage of positive tests, the trend looks more like this:
The rise appears to have been smaller and slower and has occurred recently.
3. The test targets hot spots
The increase in testing capacity means the government now has a resilient army of testing facilities. A network of more than 100 mobile units can be sent across the country.
And despite the current issues with laboratory capacity, which means that some people in some places have struggled to get a test, resources are still focused on areas with higher rates.
Randomized neighborhood testing also began in hotspot areas, with people being given tests even if they had no symptoms.
By looking at the areas with the highest infection rates, you are more likely to get positive tests.
It is reported that during the past week until Sunday, a quarter of the new cases were in the 20 local authority areas with the highest rates. They represent only 5% of all local authorities.
4. Hospital admissions do not rise as much as cases
Over the past few days, hospital admissions have slowly started to rise – but not nearly as often as the cases, and it’s too early to tell if this is statistically significant.
They represent a small fraction of the March admissions, and they are gradually rising much more than they have been around the peak.
One theory is that more tests reveal a greater number of mild cases that do not need treatment. Another reason is that more cases are among young people, who are less likely to have severe disease.
But the elevation indicates that the virus could be entrenched in society again, and could escalate rapidly.
5. Youth test positive at higher rates
Public health data in England shows that people between the ages of 20 and 39 are testing positive at higher rates than any other age group, and at higher rates than they were earlier in the pandemic. What is difficult to say is the reason for this.
It could be a demographic or demographic behavior – young people are more likely to have to go out for work, get public jobs, live in communal housing, and go out for socializing.
But it can also be a function of how you expand test eligibility. Younger age groups are less likely to become seriously ill with the Coronavirus, so earlier this year they would not have found themselves in a hospital where they would have been tested.
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