Variant of concern is now dominant across the UK as Wales records 30 new cases
A further 30 people have tested positive for the Indian “variant of concern” in Wales over the last seven days, according to the latest figures released by the UK Government.
The number of cases of the B.1.617.2 mutation has increased by 107%, from 28 to 58 since last Thursday, however the latest data released by Public Health Wales confirms there have been just 276 new positive tests for Covid in the seven days up to 23 May and the national case rate stands at 8.8 per 100,000.
There are currently 6,180 cases of the variant of concern in England, a jump of 90% since last Thursday and at a press conference this afternoon, the English Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the Indian variant was now dominant across the UK and could account for up to 75% of new cases.
Figures released before the press briefing also confirmed Covid deaths are up 14% across the week in the UK and Covid cases have increased by 20.5% in the last seven days. Hospital admissions up to last Sunday had also jumped by 19.9% percent, while the weekly case rate across England is currently 23.6 per 100,000 people.
The latest report from the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies warns of the emerging threat of the B.1.617.2 variant and says infections have been growing at twice the speed of the previously dominant Kent variant and close contacts were 50% more likely to be infected.
The group also highlighted recent research that estimates the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are 33% effective at preventing symptomatic B.1.617.2 infection after one dose, providing significantly less protection than the 51% achieved against the Kent mutation.
The Pfizer vaccine is 88% effective after two doses, compared to 93% for the Kent variant and AstraZeneca is 60% effective after two doses, 6% lower than for the Kent variant.
The group concludes: “This is the first real-world evidence that B.1.617.2 does possess some vaccine escape ability, particularly in people who have had just one dose.”
Cardiff and Vale
In Wales the main clusters of variant B.1.617.2 have been in the Cardiff and Vale health board area, and are linked to returning travellers but cases have also been confirmed in the Swansea Bay and Betsi Cadwaladr health board areas in the last week.
Yesterday Mark Drakeford urged holidaymakers visiting Wales from coronavirus hotspots, including areas in England with high levels of the variant of concern, to take extra measures to help keep Wales safe, including packing lateral flow tests in their suitcases.
The First Minister said: “Our tourism businesses will be looking forward to a busy week and the start of the summer season.
“I urge anyone planning a break in Wales from an area with higher rates of coronavirus, to test themselves regularly, using the free Covid-19 lateral flow tests, before they travel.
“Only those who have a negative test result, and no symptoms of coronavirus should travel.
“Everyone coming to Wales from areas with a higher prevalence of coronavirus should bring lateral flow testing kits with them to continue regular testing while on holiday – this is an additional measure to help keep Wales safe. Lateral flow testing kits are also available locally throughout Wales.”