IN today’s press conference (Friday 10, Sep) First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford set out the conclusions of the latest three-week review of coronavirus regulations.
He said: ‘Today, as we all get back to work and school, after the summer break, I want to share the latest information we have about the public health situation. This is the information the Cabinet will use to make the decisions over the next seven days.
“It includes the latest intelligence from the modelling work carried out for us by Swansea University, which started to become available this week.
“For six weeks now, Wales has been at alert level zero. This means all businesses are able to open and there are fewer legal restrictions in place to control coronavirus than at any time since the start of the pandemic 18 months ago.
‘The pandemic is not yet over. Over the summer, as we’ve all enjoyed meeting each other again and spending time with friends and families, cases of the virus have risen – not just in Wales, but around the UK and in many parts of the world.’
The information from a series of slides showed that Covid cases were at their lowest in April and May before Wales was hit by the new Delta Variant, with cases having risen since the beginning of June.
With the lifting of restrictions, free movement and gatherings in larger numbers, cases have increased. Today there are around 520 cases per 100,000 people. The last time rates were this high was in December.
The First Minister said that we now have very high rates of coronavirus in all our communities – rates, which modelling says are likely to get worse over the next few weeks.
He cautioned that if the virus continues to spread at its current rate, we can expect to see around 3,200 cases confirmed every day as this wave peaks towards the end of the month.
The First Minister said: “Until now, this rise has been manageable, because our fantastic vaccination programme has helped to weaken the link between infection and serious illness.
“With the rapid spread of coronavirus in our communities, pandemic pressure on the NHS is increasing once again. At the moment there are around 40 Covid-19 hospital admissions a day. There are just over 420 confirmed cases in hospitals across Wales – the highest number since March. The modelling suggests there could be 100 new Covid-19 hospital admissions every day as the delta wave peaks. These will include many who will need to be in hospital for a long time and many who will need intensive care. They will enter an NHS which is already under intense pressure as it responds to emergency healthcare demands and provides more planned operations and treatment. And our health and care services are already experiencing staffing pressures, through a combination of annual leave, staff working in other areas, sickness and isolation.
“Our health and care staff are exhausted after working so hard and so intensely over the last 18 months. What can we all do to help in this ongoing emergency? Before I turn to coronavirus, I want to ask for everyone’s help to manage the demands on our NHS. Our NHS is there is to help everyone when they need it but not everyone needs to go to go to A&E. Please think about what care you need for your condition and whether you can get help from your local pharmacist or GP first rather than going straight to A&E.”
Speaking about the protection measures and vaccination programmes, the First Minister said: “There are a range of simple steps we can all take to help to control the spread of this virus and protect ourselves and our families. The most important is being fully vaccinated. Our vaccination programme continues to be one of the best in the world – just over 90% of people have had their first dose of the vaccine and 84% have had two doses. We have made really good progress vaccinating 16 and 17-year-olds, with more than two-thirds having their first dose. These are really impressive figures and a testament to the hard work of the thousands of people involved in the programme. But there are still a significant number of people who could be vaccinated who haven’t yet had the vaccine and are at risk of catching Covid. We know that many who are admitted to hospital have not been vaccinated – and many are under 30 or younger.
It is never too late to be vaccinated in Wales
The first minister continued: “So take this important step to protect yourself and your loved ones and get a vaccine. There are details of clinics on our website and many health boards have walk-in clinics. Over the coming week, there will be a number of important developments in vaccination. We expect the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to confirm the arrangements for the autumn booster programme.”
The First Minister concluded by urging the people of Wales to continue to work from home when they can. He said: “We have all worked together before and we have changed the course of this pandemic. We can do so again now. Together we can keep Wales safe. Diolch yn fawr i chi gyd.”