Large crowds in London for Euro final a ‘concern’ says Wales’ Chief Medical Officer
The large crowds that gathered in public places for the England v Italy Euro 2020 final yesterday were “certainly a concern” according to Wales’ Chief Medical Officer Dr. Frank Atherton.
Speaking at the Welsh Government’s press conference today he said that as Covid restrictions moved away from legislation towards personal responsibility there was more work to do in communicating to the public what the risks were.
He added that there appeared to be some link between the Euros football tournament and a rise in cases in the UK.
“It is certainly a concern,” he said. “As we move away from legislation towards personal responsibility we have to work with the public and make them understand the risks they are taking.
“Throughout the football, we’ve seen an increase in cases throughout the UK. Certainly, Scotland saw cases rise following the Scotland v England game.
“There is no doubt in my mind that these large gatherings if not well managed can lead to increased transmission. Our approach in Wales has been to avoid those larger gatherings. We will try to do that in a more cautious way.
“I can’t comment on how other nations manage their events. But what we need to do is learn from what has happened elsewhere. That is what ministers will have to take into account as they start to plan.”
Dr. Frank Atheron was speaking before the Welsh Government is expected to announce the next phase of Covid restrictions on Wednesday.
He said that they were looking both at data on hospitalisations and deaths in Wales and also what was happening in England and Scotland before coming to a decision.
“We are seeing far fewer infections in the older population than the younger population,” he said. “That’s good news. A large part of that is the vaccination programme is protecting the older population.
“The trajectory we’re on in Wales suggests we’re two to three weeks behind what is happening in England and Scotland. Watching there is very important and helps ministers in this country make decisions as well.”
He added that there are “other possible harms from coronavirus” besides hospitalisation and death. “We don’t know how many cases will turn into long-Covid. We are concerned that new variants may emerge that will escape our vaccinations.
“I think we will ultimately face a situation where Covid is like seasonal flu where it comes every year and it causes harm.”
He added however that Wales would likely follow its own path on restrictions rather than relaxing restrictions because the UK Government was doing so in England.
“There have been differences between nations in the past and that will continue,” he said. “Welsh ministers have historically been more cautious and the public have been appreciative of that.”
Dr. Gill Richardson, the deputy chief medical officer leading Wales’ Covid-19 vaccination programme, added that while they could confidently say that the vaccine has weakened the link between infection, hospitalisation and death, it had not broken the link.
Asked how difficult the winter would be, she said they were “always very concerned that the NHS is being asked to do a great deal. It’s going to be a rocky road for Covid and also for flu. So the NHS is facing a challenge but our NHS has so far been able to meet that challenge.
“However, if we can persuade that quarter of 18-39 that have not been vaccinated to come forward it will decrease transmission in our communities so come the winter we will be in the very best place to protect the NHS.”
She said that the original aim was to vaccinate everyone by September but “we’re going really really well and I would be optimistic that we can bring that forward”.
People will start to be invited by vaccine boosts in September, she added.