Good afternoon Post readers - this is a quick update on the latest Covid-19 data in the Liverpool City Region.
We’ve been sending these Covid updates every week since we started The Post in early October, but that frequency no longer feels necessary given the way the numbers are going. From now on, what we send will be a bit more varied - mixing up Covid updates and other types of stories. This newsletter is still very much in soft-launch mode, so you will only hear from us every week or two until we build up enough of a following to turn The Post into a fully-fledged operation.
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What a difference a month makes. In early October, the Liverpool City Region was the undisputed epicentre of the country’s second wave. In the league table of local authorities with the highest Covid-19 case rates a month ago, Knowsley was second, Liverpool was third, Sefton was fifth and St Helens was tenth. Halton and Wirral comfortably made the Top 40. Mayor Steve Rotherham warned that we were in a "very dangerous moment” and said that if people didn’t follow the Tier 3 rules, "The alternative is to see our city region overrun with sickness and death."
The picture today is vastly different. Infection rates are falling fast in every district of the city region, and not one of them makes the top 50 in the league table anymore. Wirral and Halton are now outside the top 100. The graphic below - made by the very useful @UKCovid19Stats Twitter account - shows how far rates have fallen. From 730 to 312 in Knowsley over the course of a month. From 692 to 264 in Liverpool. If rates keep falling, the city region’s average rate will soon match the average for England, which is around 250.
The number of Covid patients dying in our hospitals is now also falling. In the week ending Sunday, 15.5 people died per day having tested positive for Covid across all of the city region’s hospitals, down from 20 per day in the week ending October 20th. The big fear was that deaths would continue rising and would go past the peak level we saw in April (just under 40 per day). Thankfully that doesn’t look likely now, as you can see in the graph below.
Of course, 15 deaths per day is still tragically high and means that more than a hundred families lost a loved one over the past week. It also shows that while we have comfortably passed the peak of the second wave in terms of community transmission, the pressure on our hospitals - and in particular our critical care wards - is still extremely high, at a time of year when they are usually very busy anyway.
(For these calculations we have included hospital trusts that are partly in the city region, so the real number of deaths in the LCR will be slightly lower. For example, deaths at Warrington hospital are included because it is part of the Warrington and Halton trust.)
Why did the city region’s second wave peak when it did? It’s very difficult to say. Generally, it looks like case rates peaked in the first week of October, and those people were probably getting the virus in the last week of September. That’s before the city region entered Tier 3 restrictions in the middle of October, and a good month before the country entered the November lockdown.
Did people change their behaviour enough in late September, as rates shot up and officials started to make noises about a second wave, to turn the tide? Did we build up a bit of immunity in September that stemmed the growth of cases in October? You might expect that the peak was caused by the return of students, but in fact, a metric called “expected mortality” which weights cases among older people much higher than younger people also peaked in early October - around the 10th.
Compared to other areas like Manchester, the surge of cases in the city region was much more of a spike. Cases went up really fast and then came down really fast. Perhaps researchers will work out why, but right now it’s guesswork.
Until next time, thanks for reading The Post and please do forward this newsletter to anyone you think might enjoy our journalism.
If you have ideas for stories we should cover, please hit reply or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are particularly looking for stories that are based around real lives - someone you know who has run a pub for 50 years, or a great teacher at your local school who came here from Syria. The kinds of tales that have human depth and tell a wider story about what’s going on in an estate or a town or across the region.