Wales has seen a sharp rise in its Covid infection rate, which is likely to have been driven by the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, new data has revealed. The latest update from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that one in 30 people in Wales, around 3.35% of the population, had the virus during the week ending June 24.
That was a significant increase on the one in 45 reported just a week earlier. The Welsh Government said the rate of positive cases appears to be highest in the region covering Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil. Some health boards have opted to reintroduce mask wearing and reduce visiting in hospitals due to the unwelcome rise in cases.
According to the ONS, across the UK a total of 2.3 million people in private households were estimated to have had the virus in the week ending June 24 – up 32% from 1.7 million the previous week. This is the highest estimate for total infections since late April, but is still some way below the record high of 4.9 million seen at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave at the end of March.
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In England, the estimated number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in the latest reporting week was the same as Wales, around one in 30 people. However in Scotland and Northern Ireland it was even higher, at one in 18 and one in 25 respectively, reports WalesOnline.
Sarah Crofts, head of analytical outputs for the Covid-19 Infection Survey, said: “Across the UK we’ve seen a continued increase of over half a million infections, likely caused by the growth of BA.4 and BA.5 variants. We will continue to monitor the data closely to see if this growth continues in the coming weeks.”
In Wales, on June 30 465 people were in hospital with Covid, a figure which has risen significantly in the past week from 324 on June 24. The number of patients being activity treated for the virus has also risen to 53, compared with 41 on June 24. For most of June this figure was around the mid teens and 20s.
There has also been a sharp rise in the number of Covid patients in ICU, up to 18 as of June 30. A week earlier on June 22, there were only nine Covid patients in intensive care units.
Meanwhile new analysis from the ONS has revealed that death rates in England and Wales experienced a “marked decrease” last year, though Covid-19 remained the leading cause of death. There were 990.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021, down from 1,048.3 in 2020.
The figures are a better measure of mortality than the crude number of deaths as they account for population size and age structure. Mortality rates for both males and females “decreased significantly” year-on-year, the ONS said.
The age-standardised rate for females stood at 849.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021, down 5% from 894.2 in 2020. Males saw an even larger percentage fall, down 6.3% from 1,236.7 per 100,000 to 1,159.3. Mortality rates for both sexes in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, hit their highest level since 2008.
The fall in figures for 2021 is likely to reflect the impact of the vaccination programme, which was rolled out from the start of the year and helped weaken the link between infection, serious illness and death.
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