Covid in Wales: What do the stats tell us?

By Steve Duffy
BBC News

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image captionCardiff outdoors, after the reopening of hospitality

What can different statistics tell us about coronavirus in Wales?

Here, we regularly update some of the key areas of data for measuring the pandemic, covering case rates, Covid patients in hospital, the number of deaths and programmes such as vaccination and testing.

We also try to explain some of the different measures being used.

Where in Wales are most cases?

Case rates can tell us how many people with Covid-19 symptoms are presenting themselves for tests that then come back positive.

Low numbers everywhere show vaccinations are having an impact, with far fewer people experiencing symptoms, although there is concern about the faster transmission of the Delta variant, which is now present in Wales.

Wales has reported 61 new positive tests a day on average in the past seven days, an upturn which might be expected as things continue to open up.

It compares with 46 cases a day a month ago and 2,864 cases a day at the peak in December.

Late reporting of more than 200 cases has meant it will be a few days before a backlog is processed and a precise pattern emerges of this case rate increase.

With so little between areas, small clusters in schools or spikes in cases can lead to case rates fluctuating day to day, so it is important to look at the overall picture.

All of Wales' 22 council areas have been under 50 cases per 100,000 - one of the key thresholds for easing restrictions - since the start of April. Now, 13 council areas have case rates in double figures.

image captionThis shows low cases in communities on Thursday

When broken down further to a community level - areas with an average population of 7,000 - 44 local areas reported three or more positive cases in the past week, with 89% reporting two or fewer.

Three of these local areas - Sketty in Swansea, Glyn and Pontyberem in Carmarthenshire and Maindee in Newport - are above 100 cases per 100,000 people.

A cluster of cases, attributed to the variant first identified in India has been responsible for a spike in Conwy, taking the case rate above 30 for the first time since the end of March.

Positive tests, all linked, were found in the Llandudno Junction, Llandudno and Penrhyn Bay areas and last week the majority were people who have not had a vaccine.

Surveillance details show a high case incidence among the under-25s, although Conwy has one of the highest vaccine take-ups in Wales among the 18 to 29 age group.

This is the highest case rate in Wales now - and 163rd highest in the UK.

Otherwise, Conwy has been under the 50 cases per 100,000 threshold since 23 March.

Swansea is the next highest and Newport and Carmarthenshire have crept up slightly due to local clusters. There were 18 cases in Pontyberem linked to social gatherings and people living together.

Bridgend, which saw a recent spike, has seen its case rate quickly fall into single figures again. Local hotspots have receded after positive tests last week linked to pupils and staff at a Porthcawl primary school.

Caerphilly, the area which was the first area to put into a local lockdown last September, now has the lowest case rate in the UK at 2.8 cases per 100,000.

How many tests are positive?

The proportion of tests which come back positive has been another key indicator.

The positivity rate in Wales is at 1.3% - its highest point since 24 April but still well within the recommended range.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the positivity proportion of tests should be no more than 5% for a stable period, before areas come out of restrictions.

All local authority areas all have been within the 5% positivity threshold for more than two months.

On average, Wales has been below this threshold for more than 90 days.

Covid-19 cases across Wales. Cases per 100,000 people over seven days and total  pandemic deaths.  Up to 5 June.

Why do we look at cases per 100,000 going back about five days?

Because of a lag in test results coming back from Public Health Wales (PHW), we wait for those late results to come in before looking at what the picture is. It's a bit like in football, waiting on a Saturday evening for all the final scores to come in before looking at the league tables.

The case rate is only a snapshot of the virus out there as it relies on people asking for a test. Others may have the virus and not know it, as they are asymptomatic.

But since the end of last summer, when tests were fully available to anyone who thought they might have Covid, it has been a good measure.

Before this testing phase, looking at case rates is less reliable for reading trends.

The case rate in Wales is 13.5 per 100,000 over seven days.

This is the highest point since 19 April and health officials say it might increase a little more, with the easing of restrictions. It has been within a range of between 7 to 10 cases per 100,000 since the start of May and the lowest rate of the UK nations for more than four months.

We are seeing a curve upwards but not as marked as spikes in cases seen in Scotland and regions of England, like the north west.

What about variants?

A total of 184 cases of the India variant of concern have been detected so far in Wales, according to Public Health Wales (PHW) figures.

There have been 87 more cases sequenced of the B.1.617.2 or Delta variant since last Thursday and there were more new cases detected than those of the UK Kent or Alpha variant in the last few days.

Health officials have pointed to 54 cases in the Conwy area in recent days, including in schools. It has been detected in all health board areas.

PHW said Wales may slowly be beginning to experience localised community transmission of the variant, with increasing evidence of cases with no travel history and that it was "concerning" to see the increase.

media captionIn 40 seconds, a video showing how Wales' case rates have dropped over the last six months.

One person is being treated in hospital with the variant, while two others have been discharged after treatment.

Numbers of the other India variant had stayed the same, on 15.

The dominant variant has been the UK Kent one, with another 72 cases detected in Wales in the last week.

How many people have been vaccinated?

More than 2.1 million people in Wales have been given a first dose of Covid vaccine, while more than 1.2 million have now been given the full course.

According to figures released on Thursday, 69.6% of the Welsh population have had a first dose and 41.7% have had a full vaccination.

The programme has been focusing in recent weeks on the younger age groups for first doses - with more than 61% of people in their 20s having had a jab.

Covid-19 antibodies in Wales. % modelled estimates by age group.  Up to 23 May.

Vaccinations have also contributed to the estimate that 82.7% of people in Wales have antibodies to help protect against Covid-19.

More than half of young people aged under 25 in Wales are now have antibodies thought to have protecting antibodies. It rises through the age groups to 84.4% of 35 to 49-year-olds and 98% of 75 to 79-year-olds.

Blood samples are taken for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey, which looks at antibodies for those who have either had a Covid infection in the past or have recently had a vaccination dose.

How many people are infected?

It's estimated that 2,300 people have Covid-19 in Wales, according to the latest weekly swab survey by ONS.

That's equivalent of one in 1,300 people - or 0.08% of the population.

Last week the estimate was 2,900 people having Covid.

The ONS takes thousands of swab samples in Wales - so this can pick up people who may not know they have Covid.

It says the percentage of people testing positive has increased in Wales however the trend is uncertain. It found these to be of the Alpha/Kent variant in Wales, while the continued increase it found in England was of the Delta/India variant.

How many people are in hospital with coronavirus?

On 10 June, there were 118 Covid patients in hospital beds - the lowest in the pandemic and the daily average is 129, equalling the lowest.

These numbers include both recovering patients and those suspected of having Covid, but waiting for test results.

When we just look at confirmed Covid patients, there were 24 across hospitals in Wales. Cardiff and Vale had 13 of these, the highest number at its hospitals since mid-April. There has been a data issue at the health board, which led to an additional seven confirmed patients being added to its total.

This is a 98% fall from the peak in January, although there was a record low of just seven patients on 27 May.

  • Of those in hospital on 10 June, 24 were confirmed Covid-19 patients. There were also 28 suspected of having Covid but some of these patients could well prove to be negative once results come back
  • There were also 66 patients recovering from the virus, the lowest since mid-October. Recovering patients were not counted until the end of May, but the numbers have fallen back significantly. These are patients in rehabilitation or too sick with the effects of the virus to be discharged, although they have not tested positive for the virus for at least 14 days. Some have other conditions which need treating and others are waiting for care packages or support to be available. They now make up 56% of Covid patients
  • Covid patients - including those recovering - made up 1.4% of all patients in hospital on 10 June. The proportion reached 36% before Christmas

Four people were being treated on invasive ventilated beds, including in critical care, for confirmed or suspected coronavirus on 10 June. The number had dropped as low as one patient nearly three weeks ago. This is 97% fewer Covid patients than in mid-January.

  • Betsi Cadwaladr and Cardiff and Vale each had two patients but there were none elsewhere.
  • Units are above normal non-pandemic capacity, while non-Covid critical patients outnumbered Covid patients by 36 to one.
  • The average age of someone being treated in critical care with Covid-19 has been about 59, about 53% are over 60 and about two-thirds are men. More than half live in the more deprived areas of Wales and there is a disproportionately high number of people from Asian backgrounds.
  • The mortality rate of a critical care Covid-19 patient in the most recent study of more than 900 Welsh patients, is 46%, including about 6% who died after being transferred into an acute ward. Just over 53% had been discharged from hospital. The study also shows patients admitted since September who survive are spending less time in critical care than earlier in the pandemic.

On 10 June, admissions to hospitals of confirmed and suspected Covid-19 cases were running at a daily seven-day average of eight after dropping to a record low of six last weekend.

There were six confirmed and suspected Covid patients admitted on Thursday, four in Cardiff and Vale and two in Betsi Cadwaladr.

Cwm Taf Morgannwg has had one Covid admission in five weeks and none for a week.

Cardiff and Vale have been responsible for most Covid admissions recently but the health board said Covid cases remained "very low".

Explaining its recent admissions and higher Covid bed figures, a spokesman said: "We instigated a data fix in the middle of this week to our bed occupancy figure which increased our reported position slightly, but this was based on existing inpatients and did not represent a sudden increase in patients.

"Where new admissions or patients in our beds have tested positive for Covid-19, in most instances, these are old infections (tests can remain positive for three months or sometimes longer after initial infection) and the individual is being treated for something else."

Covid admissions now make up 0.7% of all hospital admissions.

Have vaccines had an effect?

The chart above shows how there has been a steeper decline in hospital admissions with Covid in the weeks after the peak of the second wave, compared to the first.

This coincides with the roll-out of the vaccination programme to older and more vulnerable groups.

What about infections in hospital?

Public Health Wales has reported 13 hospital-acquired Covid infections in the most recent week, eight more than the previous week.

There were four "probable" and "definite" cases in Aneurin Bevan and three in Cardiff and Vale.

There have now been about 2,470 hospital-acquired cases reported across Wales since the start of 2021 and about 7,100 since the pandemic began.

Covid-19 infections in hospital. 'Probable' and 'definite' hospital onset infections by week.  Up to 6 June. Does not include Powys, with no cases in the last week.

Overall, 94% of Covid-19 infections occurred in the community - 6% were caught within or linked to hospitals.

Covid-19 deaths in Wales. Weekly registered deaths by health board.  Up to 28 May.

How many deaths have there been?

The number of deaths involving Covid-19 was three in the latest week.

This is the lowest we have seen since early-September.

These accounted for 0.5% of all deaths, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The trend has been for a steady decline and is 80% fewer Covid deaths than registered two months ago.

The deaths occurred in hospitals involving patients from Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Merthyr Tydfil.

Across England and Wales, Covid was the underlying cause of death in 73.7% of cases when it was mentioned on the death certificate, so the actual number of deaths due to Covid rose.

Deaths during the pandemic in Wales. All causes registered and those involving Covid-19 by week.  Up to 28 May.

What about 'excess deaths'?

So-called excess deaths, which compare all registered deaths with previous years, have been below average for 12 of the past 13 weeks. There were four deaths (0.7%) below the five-year average.

Looking at the number of deaths we would normally expect to see at this point in a typical year is seen as a reliable measure of the pandemic.

The number of deaths from all causes in Wales fell to 605 in the week ending 21 May.

Only Scotland, North East and North West England saw above average deaths across the UK's nations and regions.

When looking across the course of the pandemic so far, there have been 46,041 deaths from all causes in Wales, 7,890 (17.1%) mentioning Covid-19 on the death certificate. This was 5,495 deaths above the five-year average.

When deaths occurring up to 28 May but counting later registrations are included, the total number of deaths involving Covid rises to 7,892.

We can see the two distinct waves of the pandemic in Wales.

The second wave was more sustained - over nearly four months from late-October to the end of February there were more than 4,800 deaths. The peak came on 11 January, when there were 83 deaths.

The first wave over two months - March to May 2020 - brought more than 2,100 deaths. The peak came on 12 April with 73 deaths.

Is there a Welsh hotspot?

The hotspot was in the Aneurin Bevan health board area of south-east Wales in the early stages of the pandemic and then Cwm Taf Morgannwg.

Over the summer of 2020, Betsi Cadwaladr health board, in north Wales, showed more of a spike in Covid-19 deaths compared with health boards in south Wales.

In the second wave, the impact was more widespread. The peak in Bridgend in January saw the mortality rate rise to 1,277.8 deaths per 100,000 (159 deaths) and in December it was worst in Neath Port Talbot (962.8 deaths per 100,000, 117 deaths).

When looking at crude death rates - based on local populations - Wales has three areas in the highest 20 across England and Wales.

RCT has 368.1 deaths per 100,000 in total so far in the pandemic, the seventh-highest in England and Wales. Merthyr is on 351.4; Bridgend is 343.4.

Gwynedd has the lowest in Wales and 10th lowest across England and Wales on 106 deaths per 100,000.

The ONS has also broken down the deaths of those with Covid-19 into local areas - called middle-layer super output areas, usually with average populations of about 7,000 people.

For April alone, there were no deaths at all in 92% of communities.

We can see in the 14 months since the pandemic began, Rhondda Cynon Taf has seven communities in the highest 20 in Wales.

This shows 57 deaths in Tonyrefail due to Covid being the worst, followed by Sandfields in Port Talbot (52) and Porth East in RCT (48 deaths).

When translated into mortality rates, based on population size, Llanelli Bigyn is the highest. followed by Port Talbot East.

And there is one community remaining which has had no Covid deaths at all through the pandemic - Llandudno Junction South and Llasanffraid Glan Conwy.

Where are Covid-19 deaths?. Total in Wales by place of occurrence.  Registered up to 28 May.

What about deaths in care homes?

There have been a total of 1,673 Covid-19 deaths in care homes up to 28 May, making up 21.2% of all coronavirus deaths in Wales.

Looking at all deaths in care homes, ONS calculated there were 24.2% more than average over the course of 2020. That's 1,339 excess care home deaths. The two waves of the pandemic saw nearly 159% more care home deaths than normal in April and 37.3% more in December.

Similar figures are reported by, Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW), which showed they have been notified of 9,233 deaths among adult care home residents, from all causes, since 1 March 2020.

Of these, 1,920 deaths involving confirmed or suspected Covid, which makes up 20.8% of all reported deaths. It said two-thirds occurred in care homes themselves and 1,407 were confirmed cases. The number at the second wave peak was more than those in the first wave.

The latest CIW report said it had not been informed of any Covid-related death since 26 March.

CIW is now updating its figures every two weeks.

There were no care home deaths in Wales where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate for a second week in succession in the latest ONS weekly total in Wales.

Covid-19 mortality rate by area of deprivation in Wales. Deaths per 100,000 people between March 2020 and April 2021.  Deprivation classification by Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation. Deaths due to Covid-19, as underlying cause..

What else can we tell?

The ONS has published figures which suggest the mortality rate - when it is age standardised - is 1.9 times as high for Covid-19 deaths in Wales' poorest areas than its least deprived ones.

There were 264.6 deaths per 100,000 population due to Covid in the 14 months to the end of April in the most deprived areas.

This compares with 140.4 deaths per 100,000 in least deprived parts, according to the ONS figures.

As fewer people went to hospital in the pandemic, deaths in people's own homes in Wales were a third above normal levels last year, according to ONS analysis.

It found 2,610 more deaths at home in 2020, compared to the average in the previous five years. So-called excess deaths in people's homes were higher in every month of 2020 apart from February. For those aged over 85, deaths at home were 38% above average.

Mortality rate due to Covid-19 in Wales. Deaths per 100,000 people in Wales.  Months as leading cause of death in red. Age-standardised mortality rate, with Covid underlying cause of death.

How do deaths from Covid-19 compare to other causes, like flu?

For six of the past 13 months, Covid-19 was the leading cause of death in Wales - but in April it was the 18th leading cause.

There were 35 deaths due to Covid in April - 1.4% of all deaths, analysis by the Office for National Statistics showed.

This was also the largest month-on-month fall since the pandemic began, a 81.5% decrease compared to March.

The age standardised mortality rate was 12.6 deaths per 100,000 - the lowest since last September.

Heart disease, dementia/Alzheimer's disease and strokes are the biggest causes of death - while even flu and pneumonia has now overtaken Covid, although it is still two-thirds lower than the five-year average.

About 92% of communities across Wales experienced no deaths due to Covid at all in April. Only Holyhead on Anglesey, with two deaths, had more than one.

Covid accounted for 19% of all deaths in the first four months of 2021. It was responsible for 6.3% of all registered deaths in March; it was 22.2% in February and 35.2% in January.

image captionThe period when deaths were above average is marked in blue

Are deaths really 'due to' Covid-19?

The ONS analysis finds that Covid-19 was the underlying cause of death in 62.5% of cases in April, where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate.

A doctor's duties include certifying deaths, and this can include any cause in a chain of events leading up to them, including pre-existing conditions and whatever medically makes a contribution.

It was the underlying cause of death in 35 deaths in April - 1.4% of all deaths.

Including all deaths involving Covid increases the percentage to 2.2% of all deaths (56 deaths) in Wales.

Covid-19 mortality rates in UK. Total deaths per 100,000 people over pandemic.  Crude rate covers period up to 21 May. Others are age-standardised from March 2020 to end of April 2021. Due to Covid deaths not available for NI and Scotland..

How does Wales compare with the rest of the UK?

On age-standardised mortality rates (ASMR), over the 14 months of the pandemic, the mortality rate has been higher in England than in Wales, both for deaths involving Covid - and deaths due to Covid.

But if you take a crude mortality rate instead - not accounting for population and age profiles - and based purely on death numbers and population figures, then Wales is higher than in England.

The ONS uses the ASMR in its analysis.

What are the differences between measures?

The ONS and public health bodies are measuring things in a different way - and information is available at different times so do not expect to see the same thing.

  • The ONS gives figures weekly based on all deaths registered involving Covid-19, according to what a doctor puts on the death certificate, whether in or out of hospital.
  • The virus may not be the main cause of death, just a factor. There does not need to have been a positive test - it could be it was just suspected by the doctor.
media captionThe different measures for looking at deaths involving Covid-19 in Wales
  • Most of the deaths PHW reports are in hospitals - it receives information on a daily basis from health boards. But Powys has no general hospital and patients from here are treated over the border, so the 272 deaths of Powys residents are not fully reflected.
  • It will only include deaths which were given a positive test for Covid-19 in a laboratory - not any suspected cases. This can also include deaths reported by health boards, which could be from several days ago.

Can we compare the two sets of figures?

The graphic above shows how it looks when you compare figures from the different data sources - and how there is a difference between ONS and PHW. There is also a similar count used by the UK government, which takes the PHW and involves people who died within 28 days of a first positive test for Covid.

There is a difference of about 2,319 deaths.

Covid-19 deaths in Wales. By day occurring, positive cases only.  Up to 6 June.

The daily PHW figures here are presented as a rolling average, not as the day they are first reported as these can be incomplete.

By 8 June, there was an average of 0.14 deaths a day - down from a peak of 48 deaths averaging on 3 January and the lowest since late-September.

No deaths occurred on 20 March - the first day this has happened since 24 September. One death has occurred in the most recent 15 days.

Covid-19 cases by age. Cumulative positive tests in Wales.  Up to 8 June.

Who is being tested in Wales?

Nearly 3.7 million tests had been carried out by 6 June, including 1.6 million on key workers and care home residents.

There were 67,827 tests in the most recent week, about 640 more than the week before. This is about half of the testing we saw in the week before Christmas and an indication of far fewer people presenting themselves with symptoms and the impact of the vaccination programme.

Covid-19 tests in Wales. Number of weekly authorised tests.  Care home test figures to nearest comparable week.

That total figure includes around 27,000 care home residents and workers tested routinely each week and 16,170 tests involving hospital patients. This is a steady number each week, so the numbers presenting themselves with symptoms for tests will be fewer.

It now leaves about 24,700 weekly tests of people reporting symptoms and being tested at a testing centre or with a home test.

Wales has access to 37,000 laboratory tests per day currently if required, with about 15,000 of this capacity at NHS Wales labs.

Children and young people testing for Covid-19. Cumulative weekly cases by age group.  .

A total of 39,342 people in their 20s have tested positive so far - 90 more than last week's figure.

The most recent analysis of tests among university students found one case in the past seven days.

Separate figures, now published weekly, show 81.1% of schools have been affected by the virus since September.

There have been 4,535 cases in staff and 6,187 in pupils from September, up to 9 June.

There have been 48 new cases in staff and pupils in the last week - compared with 24 the week before. This includes 10 cases in Conwy, where there has been a spike in the local case rate. There have been 147 cases over the past three weeks, which include known cases at schools in Monmouthshire and Bridgend county.

We can also see from more detailed PHW figures how many different key workers and others have been tested - and how speedily results are coming back.

  • 7 January saw a record number of Covid-19 test results authorised in a single day in Wales - 21,294; the average in the past week has been about 9,689 a day, including the routine care home tests and tests in hospital, another fall on the previous week.
  • 72% of tests, mainly to care homes, processed in privately-run Lighthouse labs were authorised within a day. About 96% were processed within two days.
  • 92% of community tests processed in Lighthouse labs were authorised in one day. They managed to process 61% of home tests within a day - there has been erratic performance about the 4,000 or so of these particular tests done each week.
  • In the latest week, 100% of more than 4,100 community and mass testing "in-person" tests - including at mobile units - came back within a day from NHS Wales laboratories. The best performance yet.
  • 95% of tests judged as requiring a rapid turnaround - from hospitals, community and mass tests - were completed within one calendar day.
Covid-19 testing in care homes. Number of positive tests per week.  Up to week beginning 31 May. Lighthouse labs do not distinguish between residents and staff.

What about testing in care homes?

There were 31 positive tests in elderly care homes in Wales - two more than the previous week.

Back in early-January, the number hit 1,500 in the peak week.

Routine weekly testing in care homes re-started in September and it is continuing on scientific advice, despite the vaccination programme having now given full doses to more than 93% of residents and nearly 84% of staff.

Across Wales, about 27,000 residents and staff were tested in the week beginning 31 May.

The vast majority of test processing from care homes is done by Lighthouse labs but their results do not distinguish between residents and staff. There were 21 (0.08%) positive tests results from these labs.

From tests processed by NHS labs, we can see 1,709 care home residents were tested and seven (0.4%) came back positive.

Three care home workers tested positive.

Care Home Inspectorate Wales also publishes separate figures around testing. The most recent show only four (0.4%) care homes in Wales had notified one or more positive cases in staff or residents in the past week - down from six (0.6%) in the previous week but remaining very low.

Only Gwynedd, Denbighshire, Cardiff and Wrexham had any cases at all.

Only 16 (1.5%) of care homes had notified one or more confirmed cases of Covid in staff or residents, in the past 20 days. It was 28% of care homes back in January.

No Covid death has been notified since 26 March and deaths overall have been below average in April.

PPE equipment
Getty
How much PPE has been issued in Wales?

Since March 2020 and up to 6 June 2021

  • 871,477,219Total items during the pandemic so far

  • 186.9msurgical-type face masks

  • 141.7maprons

  • 466.5mgloves

  • 58.3mhand-wipes

  • 6.34mface visors

Source: NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership

What about tracing contacts?

The drop in tests and cases in turn has meant fewer people to trace in terms of cases - 38% down on two months ago - but the number of contacts now being traced per case has increased.

The "test, trace, protect" system for contacting people with coronavirus and tracing contacts was dealing with up to 8,200 people a day during the second wave peak, but that is down to around 200.

The programme has been extended until next March.

There was a weekly rise in positive cases - 292 to 346 - eligible for follow-up; 96.5% were reached, with 93.1% reached within 24 hours of referral and 95.4% were reached within 48 hours.

This equates to 96.4% of those successfully reached being reached within 24 hours and 98.8% within 48 hours.

It's estimated that 10% of contacts of an infected person develop Covid, while around 60 close contacts a week are traced outside Wales. Of the 1,395 close contacts that were eligible for follow-up, 87.7% were reached within 24 hours.

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