Chief Medical Officer for Wales statement on COVID-19 review: 14 April 2022.
Community transmission of the BA.2 Omicron wave of COVID-19 continues at a very high level across Wales and the UK but there are signs that this may be starting to reverse. Hospitalisations for treatment of COVID-19 may also have recently started to fall but the health and care system continues to struggle with COVID-19 demands and high levels of staff absence. Fewer patients are requiring mechanical ventilation than in previous waves.
We should maintain our efforts to reduce transmission within hospital settings. Limiting visitor numbers to hospitals, maintaining social distancing, and rigorous application of infection control procedures all remain important. Face coverings for visitors may have a small additional effect on reducing viral transmission but also signal the need for continued protective behaviours; they should continue to be used by staff and visitors until viral transmission in our communities is significantly reduced. It is unclear as to whether this would be best achieved through continued legislation or through recourse to advice/guidance but I note the rapid behavioural changes which have been seen in Wales when this shift has occurred in other settings such as retail and hospitality. I remain of the view that the best time to relax protections is when infection rates are low/receding and when direct harms are limited.
As the current wave of infection subsides we must prepare for future resurgences over the summer and into the autumn. We should expedite enhanced surveillance in hospitals (through our SARI programme) and through an expansion of sentinel sites in primary care. I caution against complacency in assuming that future variants will be as (relatively) benign as Omicron; we should plan our response to future surges on the basis that more harmful, immune-evading variants may evolve. We should also review our arrangements for protecting vulnerable individuals and groups and continue to follow JCVI advice with regard to further vaccination boosters.
Sir Frank Atherton