Reasons why Covid infections are rising again in Wales

Wales has seen a steady increase in the number of coronavirus infections since mid-February. The latest figures show that the country is now registering more than 300 positive cases per 100,000 people based on the seven days to March 13 – almost double the number recorded two weeks earlier.

Similarly, the percentage of people testing positive for both PCRs and lateral flow tests is also shooting up in Wales, with nearly one in three (32.6%) now giving a positive result. It’s a similar picture in the UK, with data from the Office for National Statistics showing that England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all see unwanted spikes in positivity rates.

While these numbers pale in comparison to the massive surge in infections in December 2021 and January 2022 – where the number peaked at a staggering 2,335.6 cases per 100,000 – any notable rise will affect the Welsh population, many of whom expect to be all over the world. be relaxed by the Welsh Government for just over a week.

Read more:Coronavirus infection rates, cases and deaths for all parts of Wales on Friday 18 March

dr. Giri Shankar, the Chief Professional Adviser for Health Protection at Public Health Wales and one of the incident directors for the response to Covid-19, explained that the rise in cases in Wales was due to a number of things “happening in parallel”.

“We now recognize that the more dominant strain appears to be the BA.2 lineage of Omicron which appears to replace the earlier circulating current BA.1. We know from its characteristics that it has a better growth advantage than BA.1, but we also know that it does not have a higher level of severity than BA.1 nor does it have more immune escape, therefore all other effects are compatible with BA.1, the only difference being the increased transmissibility,” he said.

dr. Giri Shankar is Incident Director of the Covid-19 Pandemic at Public Health Wales

Second, Dr Shankar said the continued easing of restrictions in Wales also played a role in the rise in cases. The Welsh Government will decide on March 24 as part of its three-week review whether all remaining coronavirus restrictions will be lifted by March 28, including the legal requirement to wear face masks on public transport, shops and healthcare. Prime Minister Mark Drakeford said measures will only be relaxed if the situation remains “stable”.

“As we continue to ease restrictions in Wales carefully and cautiously, people have been given more opportunities to interact and mingle with each other in a less restrictive way, which is why that promotes transmission,” added Dr. Shankar to it. “We’ve always said that the coronavirus hasn’t gone away, it’s just that the sensitivity of the population has changed and that’s why we were able to create those easements.”

Another reason for the rise in infection rates, Dr. Shankar, is the increasing number of patients who seem to be getting Covid-19 in hospital settings. Earlier in the pandemic, this was a huge problem for many hospitals, despite measures being taken to prevent and control infection. Unfortunately, it led to many hundreds of vulnerable people contracting Covid in wards and dying.

According to the latest figures from Public Health Wales, in the week ending March 13, 264 people were ‘certainly’ or ‘probably’ infected with Covid in hospitals – the most reported in one week in more than a year (301 for the week ending on January 17, 2021).

dr. Shankar said: “Patients going to hospitals experience the detection of Covid infections, either through very rigorous focus testing, or even as a result of transmission that takes place between patients while they are in the hospital. This is what we call nosocomial infections.

“And I think there’s recognition that we still have a small, but nevertheless significant, proportion of unvaccinated individuals in our population to whom susceptibility has remained quite high.”

dr. Shankar also warned that those who were among the first to receive their most recent dose of the vaccine may now be experiencing waning immunity to the virus. The Welsh Government announced this week that people over 75, elderly nursing home residents and immunosuppressed people aged 12 and over are now being invited to their spring boosters. Children between the ages of five and eleven are also offered Covid vaccines.

“So there’s not one specific reason for driving what we’re seeing at the moment, but a combination of things,” he added.

When asked whether the greater freedoms people currently enjoy in England are having a knock-on effect in Wales, Dr. Shankar that there were two elements that could have an impact.

“Every day we experience significant population displacement across borders. Every day more than 100,000 people cross the border between England and Wales on both sides. That’s why there are higher infection levels in one part of the geography – in England at the moment current time – of course is a risk,” he said.

“I also think that the behavior of the population, just in terms of adapting and maintaining protective behavior, would also have contributed. [in easing restrictions] in Wales is similar to that in England, but with a much more precisely programmed timetable. The result is that people [in England] may be less persistent in adopting protective behaviors. We don’t have any objective evidence to back that up at this stage, but I think that’s definitely something we’re following.”

While the legal requirement to self-isolate and wear face coverings will be lifted on March 28, if all is well, Dr. Shankar that Public Health Wales medical advice has not changed.

“From a medical disease transmission prevention perspective, those individuals who are symptomatic and infected should still self-isolate, although not legally,” he said. “That message has probably been lost and I want to emphasize that point.”

In the coming weeks, Dr. Shankar said Wales is likely to see a further rise in infections in both community and hospital settings, based on data he had seen from several reliable sources.

“As things stand, we don’t think this will translate into an increase in intensive care admissions. That has remained stable. We have yet to see what the impact on mortality will be,” he added. to.

“In previous waves, when we saw an increase in the number of intercourse cases, and some of it translated into hospitalizations, it certainly had an impact on health and social care. It meant some changes had to be made in the planned Health Councils are all aware of this and they are actively looking to plan for what is to come.”

In his message to the public, Dr. Shankar stressed that the coronavirus has not gone away and urged people to continue to take precautions. “We are in a more immunologically protected state due to the high vaccination coverage, but we know that the number of cases will increase in the coming days, so we urge those who have not yet completed their vaccination schedule to come forward and get the jab .

“There are certain well-known protective practices that we need to continue to practice, such as hand hygiene and physical distancing, and getting them tested as we will still have access to free testing in Wales for the foreseeable future.

“Even if people experience milder symptoms they should come forward and get a test and if they test positive, prompt self-isolation is absolutely essential, even if the law won’t require it after the end of March. It remains the most important thing that infected people stay out of contact with uninfected people to break the transmission chains.”

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