Delta variant now ‘seeded in every part of Wales’ and spreading in the community says Mark Drakeford
A four-week pause in easing Covid restrictions will allow Wales to “get ahead of” the new Delta variant and vaccinate half a million more people before a possible new wave of cases, the First Minister has said.
He said that the new variant was now in every part of Wales, spreading at a community level, and there was a very real risk that without a pause there would be a significant number of people dying.
He said that Wales was two weeks behind England and Scotland in seeing the spread of the virus and that Waes could use that time to accelerate its vaccination program for those in their 40s and 50s.
“The Delta variant, we know, is now seeded in every part of Wales,” he told Radio Wales. “97% of new cases in north Wales this week are of the Delta variant. Not only that but it is now spreading at a community level. Over two-thirds of new cases are community spread.
“This means inevitably that we are going to see rising numbers of people falling ill from this new variant in Wales over the coming weeks.
“What we don’t know, and this is why we have paused, is whether those people will fall so ill that they will need hospital treatment to help them get over Coronavirus.
“Now we won’t have that data for another couple of weeks and the pause will allow that data to be properly assembled. It will also allow us to push ahead and offer vaccination to over half a million people in Wales over the next four weeks.
“And my plea today to people is to come forward for that vaccination. hen you get an invitation when you’ve got an appointment, please make sure you come forward and keep it. Because we can only vaccinate over half a million people in Wales if over half a million people come forward to receive that vaccination.
“The vaccination offers us the best defence against this new variant and the best hope after four weeks of being able to push ahead with those additional lifting of restrictions that we’d hoped to be able to accomplish during this three weeks.”
‘Risk very real’
Asked why the restrictions were needed when only two people in Wales had died from Covid-19 in the last month, the First Minister said that People needing hospitalisation and people dying were “lagging indicators”.
“When the virus begins to spread as it is now spreading in Wales, in the community, it’s a couple of weeks before you see people falling so ill that they need hospitalisation,” he said.
“And it’s longer than that before people end up losing their lives. Now across the border in Scotland and England who are about two weeks ahead of us in all of this we are already seeing hospital numbers rising. And those numbers are rising particularly among people in their 40s and 50s.
“That’s why we will use the next four weeks to accelerate our vaccination programme – the second dose of the vaccination – among those age groups. Because if we can get ahead of the virus in Wales, use the fact that we’re in a better position than the rest of the UK, then we will have used those weeks to very good effect and we will see the figures you’ve just quoted continuing to be the picture in Wales.
“But unless we do it, unless we take this opportunity and have this pause, the risk is very real that we will see significant numbers of people needing hospital treatment and numbers of those people will be so ill that they will not survive.”