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Statement from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales on the needs to move to alert level 4 from midnight on the 19th of December and a change arrangements for Christmas relaxation, in which two households may now only meet for Christmas day.

First published:
19 December 2020
Last updated:

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.

Dr Frank Atherton

Chief Medical Officer