Wales’ best medical expert has talked about the current rise in coronavirus cases in Wales and said people should take social distance and wear face masks in crowded places to prevent infection. There is no indication that restrictions will be imposed in Wales, but Drs. Frank Atherton urged people with respiratory infections to isolate themselves.
There has been an increase in cases with the latest Office for National Statistics survey reporting an increase in cases across the UK. It is estimated that one in 45 people in Wales currently has Covid-19. The latest figures will be released at lunchtime on Friday 24 June and are expected to show a further increase.
But Dr. Atherton says that although there is an “increased” number of patients coming into the hospital for treatment, there has been no increase in intensive care units or in the number of people dying.
The emergence of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants is the main contributing factor to the increase, as they are becoming more dominant throughout the UK and similar patterns have been seen in France, Germany and Portugal.
In a speech to BBC Radio Wales, Dr. Atherton: “When we have these increases and I expect there will be more in the future, we should go back to some of the things that we know prevent transmission, so social distancing, face covering in crowded places and making sure that if we have symptoms of a respiratory infection that we isolate ourselves, all of these things will help us break the transmission chains. “
His comments come when it was announced that Wales will extend its access to free lateral flow unit (LFD) testing until the end of July due to the rising incidence. Health Minister Eluned Morgan has confirmed that free trials will remain available in Wales until 31 July. Read more about the statement here.
To explain why Dr. Atherton: “Ministers here are quite clear that they prefer to remove protection and to make easements in the situation when we are on the downward spiral.
“So when we’re on the rise in societal infections, when rates are actually rising and people are getting more seriously injured, it’s really time to delay these changes. And that’s really why we have decided in Wales to continue testing for people who are symptomatic of coronavirus symptoms for another month. “
The tests will be available to the public showing symptoms of coronavirus – such as high temperature, a new persistent cough or loss or alteration of your sense of smell or taste – along with free admission for people visiting a person eligible for new Covid-19 treatments.
The Minister of Health said: “Testing has been an effective tool to break the transmission chain, and with an increase in cases, it is crucial that we continue testing in place to protect the most vulnerable in our society. As we have seen before, Covid can quickly change I announce this extension in response to the changed picture and new variants of concern.
“I would also ask people to take protective measures to protect the more vulnerable in society, wear masks in health and care settings, stay home if you test positive, and accept the offer of the vaccine. We know the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself.I would urge those eligible to get their spring amplifier if they have not already had it – the booster is available until June 30th.
“Covid has not disappeared. While we learn to live safely with it, we will continue to monitor the situation and as we have done for the last two years, we will work together to keep Wales safe.”
Meanwhile, some local health councils in Wales have changed the rules on wearing masks this week.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, which covers the Gwent area, announced in a statement on June 21 that face masks are worn in hospitals has been reintroduced.
A statement from Cardiff and the Vale University Health Board said: “Due to the growing prevalence of Covid-19 in our local community, we strongly urge healthcare professionals and visitors to wear a face mask in all our surroundings, especially in clinical areas and those with high adherence. Please demonstrate common sense and personal responsibility to help us reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our patients, workforce and services.In addition to wearing face protection, it is important to continue to maintain social distance where it is possible. “
Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board and Rhondda Cynon Taff