Eluned Morgan insists Wales is 'prepared for winter' amid warnings of Covid and flu 'twindemic'

This winter flu season could be 50% to 100% higher than a typical season and could peak at a different time. Credit: Unsplash

Health minister Eluned Morgan insists Wales is "prepared for winter" despite warnings that this year's flu season could see numbers doubled compared to a typical season.

Modelling shared with the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation has suggested this winter flu season could be 50% to 100% higher than a typical season and could peak at a different time.

Ms Morgan warned that we are "facing a potentially tough winter" as it will be the first season where we will have significant amounts of coronavirus circulating as well as flu.

She told a press conference on Tuesday: "Although we are seeing cases of coronavirus coming down, it’s clear that the pandemic won’t be over by Christmas.

"And we have to take seriously the impact of other seasonal winter viruses, such as flu and respiratory syncytial virus – or RSV – which cause an increase in serious illnesses and put pressure on our health and care services.

"We saw very little flu last winter – you will remember that we had lockdown restrictions in place because we were dealing with high levels of coronavirus caused by the alpha – of Kent – variant."

Earlier this year researchers suggested up to 60,000 people could die from flu this winter. Credit: PA

RSV season started earlier than usual this year in Wales - in July, data revealed.

Young children are particularly vulnerable because they might not previously have been exposed to RSV.

It comes amid warnings from scientists that anyone who catches both Covid-19 and flu at the same time is twice as likely to die, compared to if they only had coronavirus.

And as many as 60,000 people could die from flu this winter, with the combination of seasonal viruses as well as Covid-19, meaning that the NHS could become overwhelmed.

An annual flu vaccine offers the best protection against flu viruses. Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire/PA Images

But Wales's health minister insists the country is "prepared for winter" and advised people on how to stay safe.

"The good news is that flu and RSV are not new health problems – we have tried and tested flu plans in place to help deal with large outbreaks", she said.

The Welsh Government will publish its winter plan next week, setting out local and national measures the NHS, social care, regional partnership boards and other partners will take to manage demands on essential services through over the next four to six months.

Ms Morgan added: "Just as vaccination is our best defence against coronavirus, it is also our best defence against flu."

Who can get a free flu vaccine in Wales?

  • Children under 15

  • People aged 16 to 50 in an at-risk group

  • Pregnant women

  • People over 50

  • People living in care homes

  • Carers

  • Close contacts of immune-compromised individuals

  • Frontline health and social care staff