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Indian variant could mean more pressure on hospitals says Chief Medical Officer for Wales

CHIEF medical officer for Wales Dr Frank Atherton said he’s “worried” a rise in Indian variant Covid cases could mean increased pressures on hospitals and intensive care.

Dr Atherton was speaking at Welsh Government’s weekly briefing, alongside new health and social care minister Eluned Morgan.

He said there were no specific “triggers” to kick-start more stringent measures in the event of a surge in the coronavirus variant, of which there were currently just 57 confirmed cases of within Wales.

So far the main clusters have been found in Cardiff and Vale health board area, related to returning travellers but he said there numbers were bound to increase.

In North Wales there have been five confirmed cases with them all related to a returning traveller and Dr Atherton reiterated a plea for people not to travel abroad unless absolutely necessary.

He said: “If the numbers (of people with the Indian Covid variant) go up that’s a worry, obviously, because higher rates can lead to more hospitalisations.

“What we just don’t know is how much an increase in rates of a new variant here in Wales would lead to an increase in hospital admissions, increase in people needing intensive care and an increase in deaths.

“We need to see what happens over the next few weeks in England really.”

Dr Atherton revealed there was no “hard and fast strategy” which would make him bring in future restrictions but said if things started to “go awry”, with increased hospitalisations due to the infection, it would be a decision for ministers.

He added: “It’s always a question of weighing the direct harms from coronavirus against the indirect harms.

“We are now in a fortunate position where the overall rates are quite low, we are able to reopen many elements of our society.

“The last thing anyone wants to do is go back an retreat and go back to further restrictions.”

He said the way to avoid more restrictions was to keep on following health and hygiene advice.

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