The question on everyone’s mind is whether Covid is out of control in Manchester, or has Burnham got it right, and the government should hold off?
First, let’s look at cases, which don’t seem to be out of control, and are, if anything, declining. They peaked on the 30 September with 596 cases and a seven-day average of 461. As of 9 October, the 7-day average has fallen from the peak by nearly 20 per cent to an average of 374.
Nine out of the ten Greater Manchester’s boroughs report recent increases in their Covid rates whereas Manchester’s are on the wane. But this further underpins the need to understand the context of what is actually happening.
The sweeping term “cases” hides a diverse typology of reality, apart from false positives. The only critical cases are those with serious symptoms (who may go on and be admitted to hospital) and those who are contagious (who may transmit the disease to others).
Suppose the increase is due to healthy student-age people. In that case the increase is unlikely to be reflected in either admissions or deaths, especially in the student age group, who play no part in national mortality statistics.
Contagious youngsters are unlikely to pass the pathogen on after a week from symptoms onset and if they continue to test positive with few or no symptoms, it’s likely because they are shedding pieces of dead viruses which have little or no public health significance.
Manchester University’s figures can help as the university keeps data on known positive cases among its staff and students. It includes those on and off-campus but does not indicate where someone might have contracted the virus.
These data also do not support further measures: cases peaked on the 2 October – a spike driven by the return of over 70,000 students to the city – and have fallen significantly since. They are 75 per cent less than what they were at the peak.
Hospital admissions may shed some light on the need for lockdown. Data from NHS England show the current 7-day average for admissions from the community is 12 a day to NHS Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, up from an average of eight a day in the previous week.
But more telling are the data from weekly and monthly mandated Secondary Uses Service (SUS) repository for healthcare data in England.
These data show a dramatic reduction for respiratory condition admissions compared with what we would normally expect at this time of year.