North Wales MS confirms new Covid-19 strain has been identified in the region
Wales has gone into a national lockdown after growing fears about the new strain of coronavirus.
A North Wales politician has said the new coronavirus variant has already been identified in the region.
First minister Mark Drakeford, announced level 4 lockdown restrictions would be brought forward from December 28th and begin at midnight Saturday.
The move followed a Welsh government cabinet meeting on Saturday to discuss “this worrying new development in the pandemic and to hear the latest advice from our senior medical and scientific advisers, including the impact on our NHS.” Mr Drakeford said.
Alert level 4 means people will not be allowed to mix with anyone they do not live with, with only single person households allowed to form an exclusive support bubble with one other household.
A 5 day easing of restrictions over the Christmas period where two families plus a single person could meet up has now been cut to just Christmas Day.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced on Saturday changes for England which includes new tier 4 restrictions for London, Kent, Essex and Bedfordshire and taking the same course of action as Wales over people meeting up during the Christmas period.
Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty said the UK has identified a new variant of Covid-19 through Public Health England’s genomic surveillance.
“As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modelling data and rapidly rising incidence rates in the South East, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly.”
“We have alerted the World Health Organisation and are continuing to analyse the available data to improve our understanding.”
“There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this.”
“Given this latest development it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission.”
On Saturday evening, Deputy Leader of Plaid Cymru and Ynys Môn MS, Rhun ap Iorwerth said he was told by health minister Vaughan Gething the new Covid -19 strain was already in North Wales.
He said: “I’ve spoken to the health minister this evening, I wanted to learn more about this more virulent, this more aggressive strain of Coronavirus that has been identified.”
Mr Iorwerth said he was told by the Minister that it’s been identified that “the new strain is in the north of Wales.”
“I’ll be pushing for more information in coming days about its presence in the northeast and the northwest.”
“It’s important that people have as much information as possible so they can understand why what is driving government’s decisions.”
“Nobody wants these restrictions but I think everybody understands that this, as we’ve seen in the huge increases in case numbers and parts of Wales, England, Scotland, that we are at a at a worrying stage of this pandemic and we need to protect health and protect the NHS.”
Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton issued a statement on Saturday evening, he said:
“I have agreed that Wales needs to strengthen current restrictions and I support a move to alert level 4 from midnight on the 19th of December.“
“I have also agreed a change to the arrangements for Christmas relaxation, in which two households may now only meet for Christmas day.”
“I recognise that this is a difficult ask of the Welsh public however, a new SARS-Cov-2 variant has been identified across the UK.”
“Whilst there have been several variants of SARS-Cov-2, there is rapidly emerging evidence that the N501Y viral variant is of increasing importance in the pandemic and appears to be significantly more transmissible than the wild type virus.”
“Analysis shows that the new variant is spreading across the UK and hospital admissions have increased markedly in areas with higher levels of the variant in recent weeks, despite the existence of level 3 restrictions in the community.”
“Although a small sample size, an ONS study has shown that a significant proportion of COVD-19 infections is Wales are due to the new variant.
It is unlikely to be lower than 11% of new infections and could be as high as 60%.
Some areas could have higher levels than others, but the limited data suggest the variant is present in different parts of Wales, including the North.”
“Currently, the seven-day incidence rate in Wales from 8 to 14 December is 587.2 cases per 100,000 (increased from 525.3 just two days ago).”
“This has increased from 231.6 per 100,000 people for the period between 23 and 29 November.”
“Alongside this, the test positivity rate over the same period has increased to 22.3% for Wales as a whole.”
“Emerging public health advice suggest that the new variant is at least contributing to, and possibly driving, this growth rate.”
“Given the risk of further high growth continuing, to contain the harm of the pandemic and prevent already strained NHS resources from being overwhelmed Level 4 measures will need to be brought forward as soon as possible.”
First minister Mark Drakeford said: “This new strain of the virus is another dreadful surprise in this long-running pandemic.”
“We now have a pandemic within a pandemic, a crisis within a crisis.”
“It is another challenge we must overcome. But one we will overcome together.”
“We will continue to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and, together, we will keep Wales safe.”
“Our economy will recover. Christmas will come again. But lives which are lost, are lost for ever.”
What you must do at alert level 4
At alert level 4 you must:
- Follow social distancing rules with people you don’t live with or who are not in your support bubble.
- Wear a face covering (if you are able to) in all indoor public places.
- Stay at home.
- Not create an extended household (single adults or single parents may join with one other household to form an exclusive support bubble).
- Meet only the people you live with or your support bubble indoors.
- Meet only your household or support bubble in private gardens.
- Meet only your household or support bubble outdoors.
- Work from home if you can.
- Not travel without reasonable excuse.
- Not travel internationally without reasonable excuse.
What can open at alert level 4
- Schools, colleges and childcare providers (informal childcare should only be essential only).
- Higher Education Institutions (mix of in-person and remote learning).
- Places of worship.
- Community centres – limited opening (for example, for essential public services).
- Playgrounds and public parks
- Weddings and funerals (ceremony limit set by venue).
What must be closed at alert level 4
- Venues for events and conferences
- Theatres and concert halls
- Indoor and outdoor visitor attractions
- Entertainment venue
- Wedding reception or wake
- Sport courts, golf courses
- Leisure and fitness facilities
- Outdoor visitor attractions
- Holiday accommodation (open only if essential only, for example for work or other reasons)
- Hospitality (except for takeaway and delivery)
- Close contact services
- Non-essential retail (click and collect allowed)
- Licenced premises. Takeaway and delivery only between 6am and 10pm
- Libraries and archive services (click and collect only)
- Organised activities limited to public and voluntary services
- Nightclubs and adult entertainment venues