Wales’ Chief Medical Officer calls for caution and vigilance as most Covid measures are lifted
Wales’ Chief Medical Officer has urged caution and vigilance as community transmission of COVID-19 continues to rise across Wales.
Dr Frank Atherton has a released a statement warning of the unpredictability of the impact of the spread of the Omicron BA.2 subvariant on NHS services now that restrictions have been eased.
On Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed face masks will no longer be legally required in shops and on public transport and the requirement to self-isolate with Covid will also move into guidance from next week.
But with Covid cases currently increasing, driven by the BA.2 sub-type of the omicron variant, two key legal protections will remain in place.
Face coverings will remain a legal requirement in health and social care settings and businesses will still be required to carry out coronavirus risk assessments, with reasonable measures put in place in light of those assessments.
Commenting after the announcement on Friday, Dr Atherton said: “Community transmission of COVID-19 continues to increase across Wales and the UK. This is likely to be a result of three things; a rise in the sub-variant of Omicron BA.2, waning population immunity, and the recent easing of NPI protections.
“Hospitalisation rates are increasing but this is not currently translating into severe pressure on intensive care services or an increase in COVID-19 related deaths.
“The main risk at present arises from sustained pressure on health services as a consequence of increased numbers of hospitalised COVID-positive patients, increased length of stay, and increased staff absences.
“We should remain vigilant in our surveillance efforts; indicators to watch closely include ITU admissions, the arrival of new variants of concern, system-wide health/social care pressures, and any increase in all-cause mortality.
“As the BA.2 driven wave continues to progress across the UK nations we can anticipate further rises in community infection rates in the coming weeks. The direct impact of this resurgence is unpredictable.
“The current uncertainty lends itself to a continuation of our cautious approach and the retention of some alert level zero protections for an additional period of time, will allow for further monitoring and assessment of the impact on the epidemiological picture.”
The latest infection rate in Wales based on PCR tests for the seven days up to March 20 has increased to 429.4 per 100,000 people and this week has seen rates rise above 400 for the first time since the opening week of February.
The latest lateral flow tests data also reports a big jump over the week, up from 21,212 positive tests to 30,712 the highest weekly recorded since the start of the pandemic.
Friday’s figures released by the Office for National Statistics in its weekly infection survey also shows cases are increasing rapidly.
It estimates that 192,000 people in Wales or around 1 in 16 people had Covid last week.
Scotland has the highest Covid rate in the UK with one in 11 people currently infected. England’s rate is the same as that in Wales and Wales have the lowest infection numbers at one in 17.
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