Covid infections continue to rise in Wales fuelled by latest Omicron variants
Covid-19 infections in Wales have risen for the third successive week, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.
Over the week ending 17 June, the ONS estimated that 68,500 people in Wales tested positive for the virus, equating to 2.25% of the population or around 1 in 45 people.
Over the previous seven days 64,800 had the virus, equating to 2.13% of the population or around 1 in 45 people, which was a up 60% from the week before.
Infections are also continuing to rise in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, with the increase likely to be driven by the latest Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, figures show.
The number of people in hospital with Covid is also on an upward trend in most parts of the country, suggesting the virus is becoming steadily more prevalent.
Health experts said that while there is “currently no evidence” that BA.4 and BA.5 lead to more serious symptoms than previous variants, nearly one in six people aged 75 and over have not received a booster dose of vaccine in the past six months, putting them more at risk of severe disease.
Across the UK, a total of 1.7 million people in private households are estimated to have had the virus last week, up 23% from 1.4 million a week earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The rise of 23% is lower than the 43% jump in the previous week’s figures, but it means total infections are now at levels last seen at the end of April.
They are also higher than the peak reached during the second wave of the virus in January 2021.
However, infections are still below the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave at the end of March this year.
The ONS said the latest increase was “likely caused by infections compatible with Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5”, which are now thought to be the most dominant strains in much of the UK.
The virus continues to be most prevalent in Scotland, where 250,700 people were likely to test positive for Covid-19 last week, or one in 20.
This is up week on week from 176,900, or one in 30, and is the highest estimate for Scotland since mid-April.
In England, 1.4 million people were likely to have had the virus last week, the equivalent of around one in 40.
This is up from 1.1 million, or one in 50 people, the previous week.
In Northern Ireland, Covid-19 infections jumped to an estimated 59,900 people, or one in 30, up from 42,900, or one in 45.
Separate analysis published on Friday by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) suggests the Omicron variant BA.5 is growing approximately 35% faster than BA.2, while BA.4 is growing 19% faster – meaning it is likely that BA.5 will soon become the dominant Covid-19 variant in the UK.
There is “currently no evidence” that BA.4 and BA.5 cause more serious illness than previous variants, the HSA said.
Free Lateral Flow Device tests
Earlier on Friday, Health Minister, Eluned Morgan confirmed that access to free Lateral Flow Device tests will be extended in Wales until July 31st due to a new surge of cases.
Tests will be available to the people showing symptoms of coronavirus, including a high temperature a new, continuous cough, and a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste.
People visiting someone eligible for new COVID-19 treatments will also be eligible for the free tests.
“Testing has been an effective tool in breaking the chain of transmission and with an increase in cases its vital that we keep testing in place to protect the most vulnerable in our society,” the health minister said.
“As we have seen before, Covid can quickly change, I am announcing this extension in response to the changing picture and new variants of concern.
“I would also ask people to take protective measures to protect the more vulnerable in the community, wear masks in health and care settings, stay at home if you test positive, and take up the offer for the vaccine.
“We know that the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, I would urge those eligible to have their spring booster if they have not already had it, the booster is available until June 30.
“Covid has not gone away, whilst we are learning to live safely with it, we will continue to monitor the situation and as we have done for the last two years, we will work together to Keep Wales Safe.”
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