Mon, 15 Feb 2021
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Official statistics reveal a sobering picture of the human toll taken by coronavirus on West Berkshire.
Almost a year after the declaration of the first national lockdown, the public continue to observe major restrictions on private and working life.
According to the UK Government's coronavirus tracker, West Berkshire has experienced the local peak of its pandemic in the past few months.
This is also true of the UK as a whole.
Through the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, district health authorities have registered record daily death, infection and hospitalisation rates.
On December 29 last year, 141 residents tested positive for Covid-19.
This surpassed the previous single-day peak of 113, reported on December 21 – just a week before.
By contrast, the local peak of the virus' 'first wave' – on April 16, 2020 – saw 17 infections in one day.
Between these two spikes, there was a second wave in October and November 2020, tailing off after a peak of 39 new cases on November 2.
A variety of factors, including improvements in testing infrastructure and public engagement, could explain the dramatic differences in infection rates.
It should also be emphasised that, as of February 15, 2021, the daily infection figure appears to be returning to pre-December levels.
On January 25, the district suffered its highest one-day casualty rate, with five residents dying from coronavirus.
It should be noted that the death rates between waves have proven more consistent than infection rates.
Similar daily figures were registered on April 4, 8 and 14, 2020.
On each of those dates, four residents died.
Hospitalisation figures are not broken down by local area.
Rather, they are broken down by regions and NHS trusts – that is, groups of local hospitals and healthcare providers.
The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust runs Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading – which covers many West Berkshire patients – as well as the smaller West Berkshire Community Hospital in Thatcham.
On January 4 and 13, 2020, 38 people were hospitalised each day at trust facilities.
By contrast, 32 people were admitted on April 25, 2020, the last peak of hospitalisations.
It is not presently possible to determine how many among this number were West Berkshire residents, and which specific hospitals they were admitted to.