ROUGHLY one in every 45 people in Wales had coronavirus last week, according to the latest official data.
Infection rates in Wales remain the highest in the UK, although figures show the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 here has fallen since the middle of October.
Gwent continues to record some of the highest rates of coronavirus infection, along with the health board areas covering Cardiff, Swansea and the South Wales Valleys.
The percentage of people testing positive in Wales, and in England, has fallen in the past two weeks, while in Scotland rates have “remained level” and the pattern in Northern Ireland is described as “uncertain”.
The positivity rates mean that in Wales, the equivalent of one in 45 people had Covid-19 last week, while in England it was one in 16 people.
In Northern Ireland, one in 75 people had coronavirus last week, and in Scotland, it was one in 85 people.
The number of people with coronavirus in hospital has crept up in Wales since most of the remaining national lockdown restrictions were lifted in May.
According to the latest data there are 800 people currently in Welsh hospitals either with confirmed or suspected coronavirus, or who are recovering from the virus.
They make up nearly 10 per cent of all current hospitalisations across Wales.
As the table below shows, the ratio of Covid patients to non-Covid patients has also increased in recent weeks. At the lowest point, in the early summer, Covid patients accounted for around two per cent of all hospitalisations in Wales.
But despite the recent rise in Covid patients, we are a long way off the worst of the pandemic, when in January this year more than one in three hospitalisations in Wales was due to coronavirus.
What comes next?
Vaccines have “weakened” the link between infection and serious illness, meaning the situation Wales faced last winter should not be repeated – at least to the same extent – this time around. This time last year, we were just emerging from the two-week ‘fire break’ lockdown.
But the link has not been “completely broken”, health minister Eluned Morgan said this week, prompting the Welsh Government to extend the Covid Pass scheme to cover cinemas, theatres and concert halls (as well as remaining in force for entry to nightclubs and larger events). Those new rules will come into effect on Monday.
The winter plan for Wales offers two routes through the next few months: if cases remain manageable and the NHS can cope, it’ll be a continuation of the rules we have now. Mask-wearing in shops and on public transport, social distancing and the recommendation to work from home when you can.
If the situation gets significantly worse and there is a risk of the NHS being overwhelmed, Wales would switch to the other option, and the government said it would reintroduce various national measures that are appropriate the the level of crisis the nation is facing.
In the meantime, the vaccines remain the best way to protect yourself and other people. Today, first minister Mark Drakeford – after receiving his own booster shot – said: “I would like to thank all the NHS staff and volunteers that have worked tirelessly over the last few months, to ensure that the vaccination programme has been such a success here in Wales.
“I urge everyone that is offered a booster vaccine to turn up for their appointments.
“We must do everything we can to keep everyone safe as coronavirus has not gone away.”