Occasional Coronavirus (COVID-19) update for Malvern Seniors
5th February 2024
Cases rose during Christmas, but are now declining. Deaths are currently only one sixth of those related to Influenza and Pneumonia so the ONS has reclassified COVID as a minor cause of death. Consequently this may be our last 'occasional' update.
The Coronavirus Dashboard has been retired.
Though a summary of the figures can still be found on The UKHSA data dashboard some of the data seems well behind real time and one wonders whether it receives much attention.
NHS England hospital admissions and beds; and deaths reported by ONS are the principal remaining measures of COVID-19 in the UK as COVID-19 descends into the soup of respiratory viruses.
There was a rise in cases, caused by mingling over Christmas, leading to a small increase in hospitalizations and deaths during January; cases are however now falling, albeit slowly, and this trend is expected to continue during the spring and summer.
Though the Autumn booster campaign ended on 15th December 2023, a further opportunity for COVID vaccination is expected later in 2024. The government may limit this to those aged over 75 years in order to reduce the cost.
What happens if you get sick
If you are feeling poorly it might not be COVID-19 but quite likely some other respiratory illness. Whatever the virus best stay at home until you feel better, and wear a face mask to protect others if you do have to go out.
You can still test for COVID at home using Lateral Flow Self-Testing Kits. These are no longer free but additional kits can often be purchased from pharmacies.
If concerned, you can purchase an Oximeter to measure your Oxygen levels at home, but note these can give erratic readings if your pulse is weak and hands are cold, so don't panic and take a number of readings if you are worried.
If you catch COVID it is likely to be a 'mild' illness, though you might feel very poorly for two weeks and be left feeling very tired after; the unlucky few might suffer breathing difficulties and become severely ill.
(Definitions: mild = treatable at home; severe = treated in hospital).
Patients are advised to take it easy until fully recovered; some have suggested that overdoing it might even damage your health.
A small percentage of patients have suffered from Long COVID, to a greater or lesser extent, and some of these have been unable to go back to work.
Many of those catching COVID often have little idea of where or who they caught COVID from, although groups of people catching COVID at the same time following an event, such as a conference or wedding, have a very good idea!
Few people are now taking precautions; most people no doubt depending on either vaccination or previous infection to protect against serious illness.
UKHSA is no longer publishing data on the benefits of vaccination versus side-effects; one can only trust the vaccines offered by the NHS provide some protection from the latest variants.
Vaccination ceased to be offered by the NHS on 15th December 2023.
(You cannot currently book with this link, but opportunities may arise later in 2024)
Number of cases
Widespread monitoring of daily COVID cases has ceased in the UK.
Number of deaths
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports registered deaths in England and Wales where COVID-19 is mentioned somewhere on the death certificate. The ONS figures lag real time by 10 - 14 days due to the administrative delay in submitting and processing reports, and do not include Northern Ireland and Scotland.
For 2023 figures you can click:-
ONS 2023 data on deaths (Excel spreadsheet)
For 2024 figures click:-
then click the Table 3 tab to view a breakdown of deaths.
ONS figures for England and Wales by date reported
In England and Wales 348 COVID-19 related deaths were reported in week 4 of 2024. COVID was the primary cause of death in just two thirds of these cases.
The risk of dying from either Influenza or Pneumonia is currently six times greater.
The chart below suggests that the wave of deaths linked to mingling over Christmas peaked at almost 400 deaths per week in the second half of January 2024.
ONS provisional deaths 'by week reported' in England and Wales since the start of 2022 (so week 105 is week 1 of 2024)
Averaged over recent years roughly 11,900 people die weekly from all causes in the UK so COVID related deaths are currently about 3% of all deaths.
Risk of COVID-19 death by age band
NHS England provides an analysis of COVID-19 deaths in hospital in England and Wales by age band. Shown below is a snapshot of 2,898 deaths for the period 6th May 2022 to 6th July 2022 when most of these deaths will have been from the Omicron variants.
Relative risk of COVID-19 death by age band May - July 2022
The main point to note is those aged 60+ account for 93% of deaths despite young people being more likely to catch COVID-19.
The risk profile for Omicron appears to be the same as for Delta. Age is still the greatest risk factor; perhaps reflecting that older people have more health problems.
According to the Coronavirus Dashboard sex is an additional risk factor - males are roughly 50% more likely to die than women; possibly because women have a stronger immune system.
Bed numbers by region in England
Tabulated figures for COVID bed occupancy in England can still be found on the NHS England website providing another indicator of the prevalence of COVID.
Note: see the latest Weekly Admissions and Beds spreadsheet, then select All beds COVID tab.
Comparison of All beds COVID data for England, London and Midlands
The number of patients in the Midlands in hospital with COVID peaked at 835 towards the end of January 2024 and is slowly falling.
For comparison, the number of beds occupied during the peak of the epidemic in January 2021 is shown in red in the right hand column of the table.
Charts can be found on The UKHSA data dashboard
Forecast for the week ahead
The numbers are changing slowly so expect little change week to week.
Longer term outlook
There was a lot of COVID about before Christmas, but little mention now. While it can make people feel very poorly, relatively few are being admitted to hospital.
The frequency of COVID is expected to decline further during the spring and summer, returning next winter, like Influenza.
Note: when considering where to mingle, bear in mind that your surgery in hospital could be delayed were you to catch COVID.
Advice for Seniors
Apart from booster programmes, the government has largely washed its hands of COVID considering it to be just one of many respiratory viruses in circulation.
Little or no recent statistical information about the benefits of booster vaccinations and the health risks posed by the latest variants in circulation has been published.
The risk of exposure to COVID remains fairly high but there is no evidence that COVID is causing significant numbers of people in Worcestershire to fall severely ill; so for most, the risk is now probably very LOW.
Consequently our riskometer remains at LOW (see opposite).
Most healthy people are taking the view that COVID is no longer a critical threat to their health.
For the more cautious the simple safeguards to protect against all respiratory infections are to:
1) Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face to avoid transferring virus from contaminated surfaces to your mouth, eyes and nose. If outdoors, for example filling the car up with fuel, either wash hands with an alcohol based hand gel after touching suspect surfaces or wear gloves.
2) Two metres is further than you think - roughly an arm and a walking stick away.
3) If you are 'clinically vulnerable' consult your GP or specialist; you may need to take a test and consider anti viral drugs if testing positive.
The COVID-19 pandemic which emerged in China at the start of 2020 is over.
For many of us, COVID-19 now seems a distant memory, seemingly happening a long time ago. We are the survivors, the lucky ones; but we should not forget that others are still remembering the loved ones they lost.
Some unlucky adults and children remain casualties having become disabled to a greater or lesser extent, possibly unable to work or attend school.
The education of children at school and teenagers at university was severely disrupted.
Business owners lost money, and sometimes their business.
Hospital doctors and nurses, and those supporting them, will no doubt carry vivid and long-lasting memories of the pandemic, the pressures they were under, and patients they lost, especially during that first YEAR THE WORLD WENT MAD.
The somewhat boring UK Inquiry into the pandemic grinds on. Click UK COVID-19 Inquiry for more information.
List of vaccines
Section deleted. Refer to archived pages for historical information about vaccines.
Summary of Links
A lot of this information is now out of date, some links are broken, but working links may provide a historical context to the epidemic.
Information about Coronavirus can be found on the NHS website:
Note: the list of symptoms was updated on 1st April 2022
Reporting and how to obtain a test
How to get a test
About joining the Zoe COVID Symptom Study:
COVID Alert states
The UKHSA data dashboard (new source of data on COVID and Flu)
UK government Coronavirus Dashboard (retired)
ONS data on deaths in England and Wales (Excel spreadsheet, data up to the end of 2023)
For later figures see:-
Select table 3 for weekly provisional death registrations for selected causes of death by country and region, in England and Wales. Figures are given for both COVID related deaths, and where COVID was the primary cause of death.
Note: ONS say that due to the low numbers of COVID-19 deaths (fewer than influenza or pneumonia), detailed breakdowns by age and place of occurrence are no longer included in the 2024 edition of this dataset.
Worcestershire Coronavirus Dashboard (retired)
A glimpse of the worldwide vaccination situation can be found on the Our World in Data website.
A video with Dr John Campbell and mathematician Professor Fenton explaining the various ways in which RISK can be specified.
A forecast of the progression of the COVID-19 epidemic can be found on a University College London (UCL) website.
A projection of the future COVID-19 death toll and daily deaths can be found on The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation website.
A live roundup of the latest data and trends about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic from the ONS and other sources.
MedRxiv is a US preprint server for Health Sciences. A depository for reports which have still to be peer reviewed.
NICE guidance on managing Long COVID
The bigger picture
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control info
World Health Organisation info
Window on the USA
Find maps and charts tracking cases, deaths, and trends of COVID-19 in the United States.
A local summary of COVID data can be found on the Worcestershire Coronavirus Dashboard.
Note 1: use the arrow <> buttons at the bottom of the Dashboard screen to move between pages.
Note 2: the figures for COVID cases are becoming meaningless as testing is run down.
Note 3: deaths are on page 7, and hospital beds on page 9.
There is a colourful webpage offering advice on learning to live with COVID for those aged under 30 years. 'Rona' is slang for Coronavirus.
Views of Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health
Views of Prof Christina Pagel, a member of Independent SAGE
Woolhouse, Professor Mark, The Year the World went Mad, published 2022 by Sandstone Press Ltd, ISBN: 978-1-913207-94-3
Medinger Dez, Altmann Danny, The Long Covid Handbook, Penguin Books, 2022. Kindle version available.
The interpretations and opinions expressed are our own
Last updated 5th February 2024