No ‘significant easing’ of coronavirus rules in Wales expected – health minister

People in Wales should not expect a “significant easing” of coronavirus rules despite rates of the virus falling across the country, health minister Vaughan Gething has said.

Mr Gething (pictured) told a press conference in Cardiff on Wednesday that “real falls” were being seen in cases of Covid-19 across Wales, including north Wales.

Public Health Wales figures show the seven-day incidence rate across Wales has dropped to 285 cases per 100,000 people, while the percentage of people testing positive has reduced to 16.7%.

A further 1,283 cases of coronavirus and 44 deaths were reported on Wednesday, taking the total number of deaths in the country since the start of the pandemic to 4,346.

The Welsh Government formally reviews Covid-19 regulations – including school closures – every three weeks, with the next review due by January 29.

Mr Gething said he would not “prejudge” the decision by the Welsh Government at the next review but warned people not to expect any “significant easing”.

“It’s good news that we’ve gone under 300 cases per 100,000. We have progress in the right direction at present,” Mr Gething said.

“We’ve also seen a drop in the positivity rate. It wasn’t that long ago that nearly one in four people who were tested were testing positive too.

“So we’re seeing a reduction in that positivity rate in a material amount but it’s still really quite high.

“So our case rates remain high, our positivity rates remain high and our NHS is still under significant pressure.”

Mr Gething said that pressure on critical care in Wales had eased slightly but was still operating at almost 150% of its capacity.

Wales entered Level 4 restrictions – a national lockdown – on December 20.

“If we come out of Level 4 too soon, too fast, we could well see a rebound in Covid rates and we could end up doing something that overwhelms our health service with all the harm that that would cause,” Mr Gething said.

“So people shouldn’t expect any significant easing at the end of this current phase but the government will have to look at all of the detail, all of the information, and obviously take account of the advice we’ll receive from the chief medical officer and our scientific advisers.”

Figures published on Wednesday show that 175,816 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have now been given in Wales, an increase of 13,884 on the previous day’s figures.

Public Health Wales said 370 second doses had been given, an increase of 105.

Mr Gething said that more than 5% of people in Wales have received Covid-19 jabs and the vaccination programme would “move up another gear” this week.

“Supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine have increased markedly. We expect to receive almost double the amount of vaccine this week as we had in the first fortnight,” he said.

This means more people aged over 80, as well as those living and working in care homes, will be vaccinated in GP practices and by community nurses staffing mobile units.

A further 60,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are to be provided for use in mass vaccination centres in Wales this week, Mr Gething added.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) The Welsh Government.