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Health minister warns of 'difficult' weeks ahead as coronavirus cases rise

Vaughan Gething says the number of cases isn't expected to peak till May Credit: ITV Cymru Wales photo

Health minister Vaughan Gething has warned of 'difficult days ahead' as the number of cases of coronavirus in Wales continues to rise.

On Sunday, Public Health Wales confirmed a further 10 people had died after testing positive for the virus, bringing the total number of deaths here to 48.

The total number of confirmed cases in Wales is now 1241, although the true number of cases is 'likely to be higher.'

"There are really difficult days ahead for our health and social care system here in Wales. So all of the work we're doing now is hugely important to be ready for that demand to help us save as many lives as possible."

– Vaughan Gething AM - Health minister

In an interview with ITV Wales, the health minister rejected suggestions that the number of infected patients would peak by mid April.

He said: "The advice that the Chief Medical Advisor and our Chief Scientific Advisor have given isn't that the peak will be reached in two weeks, but that it will be much more difficult within a couple of weeks.

"So we expect the peak to still arrive at some point in May."

Mr Gething said that 1000 NHS staff in Wales had already been tested for coronavirus.

He added that the Welsh Government were working to increase capacity to test 5000 people a day "within two to three weeks."

Asked if the Welsh Government was moving quickly enough, he said:

"We're diversifying who we work with and the number of tests that are coming on board.

"We've moving as fast as we can and if we can move faster, we will do. We're also part of UK-wide arrangements with a range of private-sector providers. That partnership means we'll also get a share of those tests, too."

"We are doing all that we could and should do here in Wales to increase our testing capacity and to prioritise that for our front-line workers to make sure they can get back to work, if they can do, to protect all of us and keep us all safe and well."

Vaughan Gething says it's hoped 5000 people a day will be tested for coronavirus 'within two to three weeks.' Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

It's been almost a week since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced unprecedented restrictions on people's freedoms in an effort to slow down the spread of the outbreak.

The public were told they should only leave home to shop for necessities, to work if 'essential' and once a day for exercise.

Mr Gething said he was unable to say when the period of 'lockdown' would end.

"We've advised vulnerable people that they need to stay at home for three months."

"So I don't think that anyone should have the impression that within a couple of weeks everything will go back to normal.

"We're in for a much longer and more difficult period of time than that."

The Principality Stadium is being turned into a 2,000 bed field hospital Credit: PA photo

Mr Gething said the Welsh Government was moving 'at real pace' to increase capacity in the NHS for the expected influx of patients.

On Friday it was announced that Cardiff's Principality Stadium would be turned into a 2000 bed field hospital.

It's also been confirmed that Llanelli's Parc y Scarlets will become a temporary hospital ward.

Leisure centres in Carmarthenshire and Swansea are also being equipped to treat patients.