The number of cases of the Delta variant in Wales more than doubled in less than a week. Chief Medical Officer tells people not to go abroad this summer.

Article By: Cathy Owen

Dr Frank Atherton said people will need to be 'cautious' for the rest of the summer

Wales' Chief Medical Officer has advised people to put off international travel this summer and warned it would be "premature" to lift all restrictions on June 21.

Dr Frank Atherton is encouraging ministers and member of the public to go forward "with caution" and urged people not to throw away the gains "at the last minute".

He was speaking as concerns grow after the number of cases of the Delta variant in Wales more than doubled in less than a week.

Evidence suggests the Delta variant - first discovered in India - is more transmissible than the previously dominant Alpha - or Kent - variant.

"We have to see what the Prime Minister decides but it would seem premature to lift all restrictions on the 21st of June," Dr Atherton told BBC Radio Wales on Wednesday (June 9). "We have been more cautious in Wales, and I think that is why our rates in Wales are lower than in other nations.

"Going forward, I encourage ministers and members of the public to continue to behave with caution. I don't think social distancing will disappear at the end of June. I think we are going to need to be cautious throughout the rest of the summer.

"I don't think that international travel is wise or recommended during the summer months. Let's wait for the autumn, and see how things are across Europe.

"Just give it a little bit longer. Don't throw away the gains that we have made right at the last minute."

There have been no deaths with Covid reported for 13 days, but the infection rate has risen every day for the last week.

The seven-day infection rate across Wales has risen to 10.4 based on the number of new infections confirmed per 100,000 population in the week up to June 3, up from 9.4 reported on Monday.

Dr Atherton said that while the overall picture in Wales has been "quite favourable", the new variant "will always give us concern."

"We have identified 178 cases compared with 28,000 cases in England," he said. "The trajectory is the same and while we don't have widespread community transmission, but I do expect cases and transmission to increase but what we don't know is how much harm that will bring us and how much the rates of transmission will lead to hospitalisation and deaths.

"We are watching what is happening in England and Scotland very carefully."

The medical expert said they needed to work out what harm comes from increasing transmission rates and warned that if hospital figures do start to go up more "national restrictions" might have been introduced.

He also said that local community health teams have got the powers to bring in extra testing for communities in areas of concern and that vaccination could be brought forward quicker.

He added: "If the public continues cautiously and we continue the cautious unlocking, then I think we can avoid going back on that. That is the last thing anyone wants.

"The more cautious we are, the more careful we are the less the risk that we throw away all of the gains we have made over the last few months. None of us want to go back to the situation we had in December and January."

Earlier this week, First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed that Wales will not see all Covid restrictions lifted on June 21, even if all measures are lifted in England.

During the Welsh Government's weekly coronavirus press conference, Mr Drakeford ruled out a lifting of all control measures on June 21. When asked by WalesOnline if he would follow suit if England proceeded with their planned lifting, he said: "We don't follow suit. That has never been the way we have dealt with the whole coronavirus crisis. We make the right decisions for Wales and we make them for ourselves in our own circumstances."


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