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COVID-19: The data

Next local report will be for data up to Friday 27th November 2020


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Local Evidence 

Risk & Outcomes of COVID-19 in Wirral (March to June 2020)
This is a review of data on disparities in the risk and outcomes from COVID-19 in Wirral between March and June 2020. The review presents findings based on surveillance data available to Wirral Intelligence Service at the time of publication and the format was based on the Public Health England report, “Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19” (published June 2020) which takes a population health approach to the pandemic. Our team continue to monitor the data closely and this report will be updated to reflect the period following June 2020 and highlight any further trends and disparities in risk and outcomes relating to COVID-19 following any future phases.


How can this information help?

To help us and you understand more about the virus, its impact and the future then we have collated, and will continue to, a range of data sources, literature and information that helps us all to respond in the most appropriate way possible.

We will endeavour to keep the information up to date and adding new and relevant content. If you are aware of additional information or feel we could develop the page then please get in touch

COVID-19 Impacts      COVID-19 Recovery

What information and data is available?

The following list provides a range of links and sites that provide information you could consider in your search

Last updated: Wednesday 18th November 2020

Question: What is the Wirral Surveillance Report?

Answer: The Wirral Surveillance Report provides a summary of the latest data and information about COVID-19 infections, prevalence, deaths, and hospitalisations in Wirral. It is produced by Wirral Public Health Intelligence Team to keep both professionals and the Wirral public informed of the latest local COVID-19 statistics. 

Where does the data come from that you are using in the local weekly COVID-19 surveillance report?

Answer: We use several different sources of data to produce our weekly surveillance report, including ONS (Office for National Statistics), NHSD (NHS Digital) and PHE (Public Health England). Please see data we use to produce the Weekly Surveillance Report which lists them all.

How can the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wirral over the last seven days and the increase in the total number of cases, both in the latest reports, not match?

Answer: Due to ongoing improvements in quality, accuracy and completeness, all data included in the reports is subject to retrospective fluctuation, i.e. a case from 10 days ago may now have enough information recorded to allocate the case to Wirral and we can have cases allocated, removed and re-allocated to other authorities, hence any possible fluctuations. We cannot account for any changes until the data providers update their records and pass that information onto to us. 

How can I access the data you use in the weekly COVID-19 surveillance report myself?

Answer: Most of the data we use is restricted to local Public Health teams only. This is because in some cases, publishing it could identify individuals (which is against the law). We have aggregated or suppressed the data where numbers are very small before publishing it, to prevent this from happening. The deaths data released by ONS is available to the public and cab be accessed here:

For a more complete list of data sources that are available to the public, see Additional sources for data and information on the Wirral Intelligence Service COVID-19 pages. 

Why are deaths in the weekly COVID-19 surveillance report different to the published deaths on the governments Coronavirus Tracker website?

Answer: The deaths data reported on our weekly COVID-19 surveillance report come from ONS. Deaths on the Coronavirus Tracker come from PHE and both organisations use different methods of reporting.

For example, ONS includes deaths where COVID-19 is mentioned as an underlying or contributory cause (as confirmed by an attending doctor), whether tested or not. ONS data is also counted by date of death and only shows deaths registered by a certain date each week (so coroner registrations will often not yet have been reported, especially for the most recent days).

PHE deaths data on the other hand, includes all deaths where the case has previously tested positive for COVID-19 at any date; regardless of whether COVID-19 has contributed to death or not. PHE data is also by date of reporting from NHS provider or care giver (which may be much delayed). In addition, PHE also includes not-yet-registered deaths.

All of these differences and others mean their data can be very different. Each site usually has the exact definitions which detail how their totals are arrived at.

Updated: Thursday 13th August 2020

Recently there have been queries around the COVID-19 related mortality data that is published nationally by Public Health England (PHE) and further analysis of their approach has been carried out to consider if there were more accurate methods of recording such deaths in the UK. As a result of this review, PHE has agreed methodology change to the process that means, as of 13th August 2020, PHE will only report deaths as COVID-19 related if a person has had a positive test for the virus in the 28 days prior to death. Mortality figures included in Wirral reports are not sourced from Public Health England data and so will data not currently be affected.

However, efforts are continually being made to provide more accurate and timely analysis of COVID-19 impacts (including mortality) from local data sources. For more information on locally published data, please refer to the rest of this document and/or the Data we use to produce the Weekly Surveillance Report section on our website

Equally for more background to this decision by Public Health England please read:

Why has PHE updated their approach to location data of person having a test? 

Answer: PHE has updated the way it records the location of people who test positive or negative for COVID-19; the address provided at the point of testing (where available) now takes priority over any registered address of a person’s NHS Summary Care Record. This method should more accurately reflect the cases for each local authority in England but may give rise to a difference in the numbers for Wirral and subsequently Wirral-ward level. The change was implemented on Monday 16th November and has been applied to test/cases carried out since 1st September 2020 (More information here).

If the number of positive cases in Wirral is reported as 2,075 and there have been 431 deaths. Does this mean that 1 in every 5 people who have had COVID-19 died?

Answer: No, this does not mean that 1 in every 5 people who had COVID-19 in Wirral have died. Particularly at the beginning of the pandemic, testing was not widely available and only people admitted to hospital with symptoms were tested. This means that there are many people who had COVID-19 who were not officially classed as being a ‘positive case’. Also, many people do not show any signs of COVID-19 (asymptomatic people) even when infected. Consequently, they are unlikely to get tested and add to the ‘positive cases’ figures. We do not currently know how many people in Wirral have had COVID-19, we only know that 2,075 people who were able to get tested were found to be positive. 

Why do the 2 pie-charts which show ethnicity in the weekly COVID-19 surveillance report have high proportions of ‘Unknowns’ when evidence suggests ethnicity is important in COVID-19?

Answer: The charts in the report reflect the information we receive and/or have access to from both the organisations who run the testing sites (testing data) and local health systems (deaths data). Although the completeness of ethnicity data could be better, local, and national agencies are working to improve this. Incomplete testing data has been a national issue which is now beginning to improve, so we hope to see the ‘Unknowns’ reduce as time goes on.

What does Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 testing mean?

Answer: Pillar 1 is COVID-19 testing which mainly takes place in NHS hospitals of either patients, healthcare staff or those with a clinical need or vulnerability. Pillar 2 is COVID-19 testing for the wider population (these are usually mobile or local testing centres run in conjunction with external companies.

It is important to understand what is happening in care homes.  Do you have information on positive tests for care home residents and staff?

Answer:  The data received from the organisations who run the testing sites (testing and positive case data) does not always allow us to see whether somebody who has tested positive is resident in a care home. Incomplete testing data continues to be an issue that we are continuing to work across agencies to resolve and we hope to see a further improvement soon, so we hope to see cases better linked to care home location and role (resident or staff) as time goes on.

Last updated: Thursday 29th October 2020


Question: How is COVID-19 data counted, collated and presented?

Answer: One of the best ways of understanding how the data is collected and then used is through these publications Behind the headlines: Counting COVID-19 from the PHE's blog (GOV.UK) and Health Foundation's article about Understanding changes to mortality during the pandemic.

What are local restrictions for COVID-19?

Answer: There are now a range of local restrictions applicable to various areas across UK, including Wirral. The current details can be accessed at with any additional details affecting Wirral at


Question: What is the situation with testing?

Answer: Anyone with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms can get a test and these can be booked at when any one of these coronavirus symptoms are present:

  • a high temperature

  • a new, continuous cough

  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

Please remember not to get tests for people you live with who do not have these symptoms. This will make sure people who need a test can get one.

These tests are available at a number of Wirral locations. A limited number of tests are available as walk-ins at the Birkenhead, Bebington and Liscard local testing sites. You must book an appointment if you need a test at all other sites in Wirral. Some testing centres are open temporarily, so please check the opening dates. For more information or to book a test visit:


Question: What is a Coronavirus?

Answer: There are many types of human coronaviruses, the common cold is a type of mild coronavirus. COVID-19 is caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. See our Covid-19 page for more background to the virus


Question: Why is this disease called COVID-19?

Answer: In February 2020, the World Health Organization announced the official name for the disease - abbreviated as COVID-19. The ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease, ‘19’ refers to the fact that it first emerged in 2019. 


Question: What should you do or not do during the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Answer: The Government has set up numerous web pages, sources of information and in this case, most frequently asked questions, on what you can and can’t do during the coronavirus outbreak: 


Question: I keep reading about symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19, what does this mean and why is it important?

Answer: Symptomatic means that somebody is displaying the signs of COVID, such as a dry cough, high temperature and loss of sense of taste and/or smell. Asymptomatic means that somebody is not displaying any signs of the virus, despite testing positive. This is problematic, because asymptomatic people can go on to infect many other people, if they do not know they are infected and carry on with their daily lives. This is why government recommendations are to self-isolate for 10 days if you come into contact with somebody who tests positive, just in case you have caught the virus, but are not showing any symptoms yourselves (you are asymptomatic).


Question: What do you mean by IPC (infection prevention and control) measures?

Answer: IPCs (infection prevention and control) measures are activities, procedures and policies designed to reduce the spread of infections. Current UK guidance on IPCs can be accessed here: 


Question: What does Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 testing mean?

Answer: Pillar 1 is COVID-19 testing which mainly takes place in NHS hospitals of either patients, healthcare staff or those with a clinical need or vulnerability. Pillar 2 is COVID-19 testing for the wider population (these are usually mobile or local testing centres run in conjunction with external companies). 

What is the ‘R’ Value?

Answer: The reproduction number (R) is the average number of infections which result from 1 infected person. So, for example, an R number of 1 means that on average, every person who is infected will infect 1 other person, meaning the total number of new infections is stable. If R is greater than 1 the epidemic is generally seen to be growing, if R is less than 1 the epidemic is shrinking. The R value is not produced at a lower level than region (e.g. North West) because it is not reliable at a small area level. To see the latest R for England and the regions, please see The R number and growth rate in the UK. 

Question: What is ‘Growth Rate’?

Answer: The growth rate reflects how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day and it is an approximation of the change in number infections each day. If the growth rate is greater than zero (+ positive), then the disease will grow. If the growth rate is less than zero (- negative) then the disease will shrink. The size of the growth rate indicates the speed of change. A growth rate of +5% will grow faster than one with a growth rate of +1%. For further information, please see The R number and growth rate in the UK

Under what legislation are local and national organisations involved in COVID-19 response able to use people’s data?


  • COVID health and care system is facing an unprecedented challenge and the government want to ensure that healthcare organisations, Arms Length Bodies and local authorities are able to process and share the data they need to respond to COVID-19 for example by treating and caring for patients and those at risk, managing the service and identifying patterns and risks.

  • The Health Service (Control of Patient Information) Regulations 2002 allow the processing of Confidential Patient Information (CPI) for specific purposes. Regulation 3 provides for the processing of CPI in relation to communicable diseases and other threats to public health and in particular allows the Secretary of State to require organisations to process CPI for purposes related to communicable diseases.

  • As part of a wider package of measures, including guidance and directions, the Secretary of State has issued four of these notices requiring NHS Digital, NHS England & Improvement, all healthcare organisations, Arm’s Length Bodies, Local Authorities and GPs (including a specific requirement related to the UK Biobank project) to process CPI for the purposes related to communicable diseases

  • They will help give healthcare organisations and local authorities the confidence to share the data needed to respond to COVID-19. 

Question: What is contact tracing and what should I do if I have been contacted?

Answer: Contact tracing is used to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases and works by asking people who have been confirmed as having the disease or infection, who they have been in recent contact with. If you have been identified as being in recent contact with a confirmed case of COVID-10, you will be contacted by the new NHS Test & Trace service - either by email, text, or phone. They will then let you know what you need to do your bit to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For more information: 

Question: What is herd immunity?

Answer: Herd immunity is when most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, which then provides indirect protection — or ‘herd’ immunity — to those who are not immune to the disease. Herd immunity can be achieved via either a high proportion of individuals becoming immune as a result of previous infection, or by vaccination. Evidence shows that a minimum 95% of the population need to be immune to infectious diseases to prevent community spread (this is what vaccination programmes such as MMR are trying to achieve). It is unclear at the current time, whether previously contracting COVID results in individuals becoming immune. 

Why are children more likely to be asymptomatic than adults?

Answer: Evidence suggests that as people age, their immune systems become less able to fight off new infections. Children and younger people generally have fewer underlying health conditions, a stronger immune system and are therefore less likely to display severe symptoms, or in some cases any symptoms at all. 

What are anti-bodies, and should I be tested to see if I have had COVID-19?

Answer: The presence of antibodies indicates whether a person has developed an immune response to a virus (because they have already had it). Tests are now being used to detect antibodies to the COVID-19 virus to see if people have previously had the virus. The test works by taking a blood sample and is completely different to the test for the virus itself (which involves a swab being taken of your throat and shows if people currently have the virus). See more about the Governments plans for antibody testing here: 

Question: Can the government and councils contact individuals in relation to COVID-19 without their consent? 

Answer: Data protection and electronic communication laws do not stop the government and councils from sending public health messages either by phone, text, or email. These messages are not direct marketing as they are being sent in the public interest to protect vulnerable individuals, meaning normal rules around consent do not apply. 

What is the ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey pilot’? 

Answer: The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the University of Oxford are conducting the Coronavirus Infection Survey Pilot to assess the incidence (or number of new cases per week) and the prevalence (the number of people who have the virus at any one time) of COVID-19, as well as to gain insight into what influences catching the virus. This involves random testing of the population because COVID-19 can present as a mild illness in many people or can be totally asymptomatic in others. This means that testing data alone cannot give us a complete picture of what is happening, because people do not generally present for testing unless they have symptoms – hence the need for random testing via the Coronavirus Infection Survey Pilot.

Last updated: Wednesday 11/11/20


Sources of information: