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Mapping the new COVID-19 strain

Mapping the new COVID-19 strain

Wednesday 6th January 2021
Dave Edmonds

Back at the beginning of October the Covid story was all about students returning to University and the explosion of cases on University campuses. Now as we end 2020 the focus of attention is the new strain of the virus and the rapid increase in cases seen first in London, but now spreading elsewhere, prompting the latest lockdowns across the whole of the UK. In the light of these developments, we thought it would be interesting to see how our data reflects these significant shifts in the progression of Covid cases over time.

For this analysis we used our Output Area level datasets which are modelled outputs we create using disaggregation. The results for these two time points are shown in the charts above. The Covid Risk Map (top row) correctly shows how in early October Output Areas with the highest case rates were concentrated in the very youngest Output Areas with poorer than average health, with additional cases concentrated in areas with the poorest health across a wider age range. This pattern is consistent with high-density student areas which are often located in cities near to more deprived neighbourhoods.

By contrast, the recent rapid increases in case rates are concentrated in a broad range of Output Areas with better than average health and a higher age than the student population, but still lower than the average for the UK as a whole . This is a pattern that indicates these infections are occurring in areas of higher economic activity which are relatively less deprived.

The Output Area age distributions (bottom row) complete the picture, with extremely high case rates seen in the 20 year old age range in early October (consistent with student populations). The more recent rapid growth in cases, during December, shows a broader peak around the 30 to 40 year old age range (consistent with areas that have economically active residents with school age children). One silver lining in this recent data is that so far, a large rise in cases is not seen in the very oldest neighbourhoods, but this is before the anticipated increased mixing of the generations at Christmas. We will need to track this over the next few weeks to see how this all plays out as we enter into lockdown alongside the roll out of the vaccination programme to the most vulnerable.