Ending remaining Covid rules in Wales next week will be a “finely balanced judgment” as cases rise
The last remaining Covid restrictions in Wales, the legal requirement to wear masks in shops, on public transport and to self-isolate, are set to end on Monday, 28 March.
As part of the usual three weekly review, ministers will meet on Thursday to decide whether the last remaining rules should be axed but Wales.
Wales’ health minister said any decision will be a “very finely balanced judgment” following a rise in Covid cases.
During a press conference today, Eluned Morgan gave an update about the latest public health situation in Wales “as we prepare to mark the second anniversary of the pandemic and the first lockdown.”
She said: “Since the end of January we’ve seen a steady decline in cases of Coronavirus as the winter Omicron wave receded.
Ms Morgan said: “We’re now once again seeing a marked increase in cases across Wales.”
“Coronavirus is spreading quickly in all parts of Wales and in all age groups.”
She said: “When the economy minister held a press conference to update you about the outcome of the last three-week review, there were around 160 cases per 100,000 people based on positive PCR tests.”
“Today, that figure has more than doubled, this rise is being driven by the BA. 2 subtype of the Omicron variant of Coronavirus.”
“This is a slightly different form of the virus than the one which caused the huge wave of cases over the Christmas and New Year period.”
The health minister said: “All the signs show that it’s even more transmissible and faster moving than the original Omicron variant and reinfection rates are high.”
“Even if you’ve had Covid before, unfortunately, it won’t mean that you’re immune to BA.2.”
“We have expected to see a rise in case rates as we gradually release protections but the BA. 2 subtype is pushing infections up rapidly.” She said.
The health minister said that results from the latest ONS Coronavirus infection survey across the UK clearly show levels of infections have been rising in all four countries.
“The rise in Northern Ireland which is shown by the yellow line (above) started much earlier and is now showing some signs of levelling off.”
“You can see case rates growing in Wales, the latest results suggest one in every 25 people is infected.” She said.
“It is going to be a very finely balanced judgment in terms of whether we continue with our planned approach to releasing those very final restrictions that we still have in place and there are no foregone conclusions, we are analysing the data.” Ms Morgan said.
The health minister said: “We’re giving ourselves as much time as we can to look at what’s happening elsewhere in the United Kingdom to learn from their experiences.”
“We will act in the best interest of the NHS and of the public health in Wales.”
During the press conference, the health minister said there are currently “more than 1200 Covid patients in hospital break beds at the moment.”
“This is the highest level we’ve seen since last March, and it’s set to rise even further.” She said.
Ms Morgan said: “Fortunately, there are low numbers of people in intensive care with COVID-19 at the moment and the number of NHS staff who are absent because they have COVID-19 or are self-isolating is also rising.”
She said: “We have got to consider the pressures on the NHS at the moment, our hospitals are full already.”
“Any additional new pressure on the NHS is going to lead to more difficulties in terms of access to accident emergencies, the difficulties of getting ambulances to people all of those things need to be considered as well as the fact that we’re likely to see more people who work in on NHS going off sick.”
Ms Morgan said: “So these are difficult judgments at the same time, of course we’ve actually got the lowest rates of Covid within the United Kingdom but we’ve always tried to follow the science follow the data, this is going to be a finely balanced judgment.”
“It may be that we’ll look at keeping some restrictions and forging ahead with the ones that we planned already.”
“But there are no decisions that have been made so far.”
The press conference can be viewed below.
Cynhadledd i’r Wasg | Press Conference 22.02.22 https://t.co/KAaURdmnEw
— Welsh Government 🏴🇺🇦 (@WelshGovernment) March 22, 2022
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