‘Inevitable’ third wave later in the summer expected to be ‘flatter’ unless Delta variant evades vaccine
Another wave of Covid-19 is “inevitable” later on in the year but it may be “flatter” if the vaccine is as effective against the Delta virus as it is against the Kent variant, the First Minister has said.
Mark Drakeford said that work by Swansea University suggested that there would be another wave towards the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.
But he added that the NHS would not be overwhelmed and the wave could probably be managed without a firebreak or extended lockdown. “We’ll be able to cope with it with means well short of what we’ve had to do so far,” he said.
“The impact of vaccination shows that the peak of that wave will be nothing like it was. It will be a much flatter peak.
“But if the Delta variant became the dominant variant in Wales then the model will be updated to take account of that.”
He said: “But even if it’s a smaller or suppressed wave, we’re still going to have one. Later in the summer and into early autumn, we are certainly going to see a third wave.”
He added that they were awaiting further evidence in how long vaccines offer protection before deciding whether to offer a booster vaccine in the autumn. If a booster vaccine was needed they would focus on the top four priority groups, he said.
Mark Drakeford also said that the evidence remains mixed about how effective vaccines are in reducing hospitalisation among those with the Delta variant of Covid.
The Welsh Government was waiting for better evidence from hotspots in England on that count, and that was one reason why they were holding back from easing indoor restrictions for a further two weeks.
“We are very confident that vaccine program is breaking the link between illness and hospitalisation where the original Kent variant is concerned,” he said. “We are seeing far lower numbers amid older groups needing hospitalisations.
“We’re not quite as confident with Delta variant. That’s why we have postponed for two weeks, to be clearer about the relationship between the vaccine and the new variant.
“If the evidence shows the vaccine is effective then we can move forward. But the evidence isn’t entirely clear yet.”
He added that Wales would continue to act autonomously from the UK Government and take what actions it needed to suppress the virus.
“I’ve never used the language in Wales of irreversibility, or said that things will always get better,” he said. “People can be assured in Wales that if measures are needed to keep you safe we will take them.”
Asked if this would complicate things for those travelling into Wales, he said: “The evidence from last year is that people who visit Wales are keen to know the rules that we have here. That’s the same approach that we intend to take this year.”