THE MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES, Eluned Morgan MS has told the Senedd that Covid-19 cases are again on the rise in Wales.
“We are once again facing a serious situation and are at the beginning of a third pandemic wave” – she said.
In the space of a few short weeks, the delta variant – which was once known as the variant of concern originating in India – has spread from three small clusters in North and South East Wales into our communities in every part of Wales.
Over the last fortnight, the coronavirus case rate and the positivity rate has more than doubled. Today the case rate is 31.3 cases per 100,000 people.
The Minister said: “Cases are rising in almost every local authority area in Wales, driven by this fast-moving, highly transmissible variant.
“In Conwy the rates are now approaching 100 cases per 100,000 people and in Denbighshire and Flintshire they are higher than 50.
She added: “Eight out of 10 new cases of coronavirus identified in Wales are of the delta variant. The R rate for Wales is now estimated to be between 1 and 1.4, which is a further sign that infections are once again rising.
“All the evidence suggests delta is more transmissible than the alpha variant – the Kent variant – which was responsible for the majority of cases in the second wave over the winter.
“Wales is not alone in seeing a rising tide of coronavirus cases caused by the delta variant – if anything we are a few weeks behind the situation in the rest of the UK.
“In England, there are now more than 70,000 confirmed cases of the delta variant and some 5,000 in Scotland.
“In both England and Scotland, increasing numbers of people are being admitted to hospital with coronavirus again and, very sadly, Public Health England has confirmed 73 deaths linked to the delta variant.
“Fortunately, we have not yet reached this stage – we are some two to three weeks behind what is happening beyond our borders but this provides a sobering vision of what may come.”
In the past week, the First Minister of Scotland and the Prime Minister have both paused their plans to relax coronavirus restrictions because of concern about the delta variant.
And here in Wales, the First Minister has confirmed we will not be going ahead with any new alert level one indoor relaxations this week or over the next three-week cycle.
Ms Morgan said: “We will use this four-week pause to focus on speeding up vaccinations to help prevent more people falling seriously ill as we face this new wave of infections.
“Even though cases are rising, we still have the lowest coronavirus rates in the UK and, thanks to the enormous efforts of everyone involved, we have some of the best vaccination rates in the world.
“All this will help us as we face this third wave – the modelling work suggests that a four-week pause now could help to reduce the peak number of daily hospital admissions by up to half, at a time when the NHS is very busy supporting all our healthcare needs – not just treating coronavirus.
“I want to pay tribute to our fantastic vaccine programme and everyone who has made it such a success.”
The very latest figures show 88.7% of adults have had their first dose and 60.2% have had their second.
The Health Minister said that between now and mid-July, we will be putting an extra half a million vaccines into the system, focusing on second doses and getting people fully protected.
“We will be focused on offering a second dose to everyone in priority groups one to nine over the next four weeks – that’s everyone over 50, all healthcare workers, social care workers, and other vulnerable groups, including care home residents” she said.
“And, subject to supply, we’ll be bringing forward appointments for the people over 40 so they don’t have to wait longer than eight weeks between their first and second doses.
“To achieve this, we will need everyone’s help to encourage everyone to come forward and complete their two-course course.
“One vaccine is not enough – we need everyone to have two.”
Addressing the Sennedd she said: “Llywydd, although there will be no substantial changes to the coronavirus regulations for the next four weeks, we have made some small amendments to make the rules easier to understand.
“These include changing the regulations so the size of a venue – together with a risk assessment – determine how many people can attend an indoor wedding or civil partnership reception or wake.
“We have begun reopening residential outdoor education centres, starting with primary school-age children.
“We have amended the regulations to bring grassroots music and comedy venues into line with the rules for hospitality.
“And we have also updated the regulations so they reflect the latest the evidence about how businesses can take all reasonable measures to reduce risk on their premises and clarify the rules about 2m distancing for groups of six people.
“We will continue to run our programme of pilot events in theatre, sport and other sectors during June and July, testing ways larger numbers of people can gather safely.
“We have also issued updated guidance in a number of important areas, including hospital visiting and for places of worship.
“And we have published a statement by our scientific advisers about the use of face coverings in schools but there will be no immediate change in their use.
“Vaccination offers us real hope of a different relationship with the virus. It may be possible to respond to this wave without having to introduce stricter lockdown measures if we can break the link between infection and hospitalisation.
“Vaccination may also help us move beyond the pandemic phase and end this cycle of imposing and unlocking restrictions.
“But, for the time being, we will continue with our cautious, data-driven approach to responding to this ongoing pandemic”