Almost 70 Covid-19 related deaths have been reported by Public Health Wales today.
The 69 deaths is the highest ever figure reported in one day, after 62 on Thursday. Both dwarf the highest number of recorded daily deaths in the first wave, at 43 on the 19th and 13th of April earlier this year.
There were 34 deaths recorded today in the Cwm Taf health board area, which covers Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf, alone.
It means a total of 3,115 have died in Wales after testing positive for Covid-19 during the pandemic.
Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for the pandemic outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said they were working to investigate and respond to the new variant of Covid-19.
“As indicated by the Welsh Government, the immediate introduction of new restrictions is related to the identification of a new more transmissible variant of Coronavirus,” he said.
“It is normal for viruses to undergo mutations, and we expect this to happen. Although the variant is easier to transmit, there is currently no evidence that it is more severe.
“We are reminding people that all current guidance relating to Coronavirus continues to apply to the new variant, including advice relating to symptoms, social distancing, self-isolation, and vaccination.
“The new variant shows up as positive in Public Health Wales’ existing Coronavirus tests, and people must continue to seek a test in the usual way if they develop Coronavirus symptoms.”
The spike in deaths come as Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the new variant of the virus is “seeded” in “Every part of Wales, including right across north Wales”.
“We’ve seen cases rise significantly in the south,” he told Sunday Supplement. “It would [the NHS] be in danger of not being able to cope if we don’t act – and there’s still a risk even now.”
Yesterday the First Minister Mark Drakeford has said that the new Covid-19 strain is a “pandemic within a pandemic” and a “dreadful surprise”.
He was speaking after revealing that Wales will go into lockdown at midnight tonight and the Christmas relaxation has dropped to just one day.
He added that the new strain is significantly more infectious and spreads more quickly than the original one.
“This new strain of the virus is another dreadful surprise in this long-running pandemic,” he said.
“We now have a pandemic within a pandemic, a crisis within a crisis. It is another challenge we must overcome. But one we will overcome together.”
The rules which allow two households to come together to form a Christmas bubble over a five-day period will apply on Christmas Day only, the First Minister said.
Non-essential retail, close contact services, gyms, leisure centres and hospitality will close at end of trading today. Stay-at-home restrictions will come into force from midnight.