Covid: 1 in 45 people estimated to be infected as Wales records highest case rate since July 2020

Data from the ONS suggests Wales has a higher case rate than other countries in the UK Credit: PA

Around one in 45 people in Wales are infected with coronavirus - the highest since estimates began on July 2020, according to the latest figures.

Wales had the highest estimated case rate of countries in the UK in the week to October 16, according to the latest data from the Office for National statistics (ONS).

Around one in 55 people were estimated to have had the virus in England during the same period.

Figures from Northern Ireland and Scotland appear slightly healthier, reporting one in 130 and one in 90, respectively.

Percentage of people estimated to have Covid-19 in week to October 16

Around 2.3% of people in Wales were estimated to have tested positive for Covid between October 10 and 16, the equivalent of 70,300 people.

There were 3,296 new reported cases of coronavirus reported by Public Health Wales in the 24 hours to Friday (October 22), while 11 new deaths were reported in the same period.

The latest seven-day infection rate up to October 17 now stands at 681.9 cases per 100,000, the highest seven-day rate since the start of the pandemic.

As of last week, 720 inpatients in Welsh hospitals were confirmed to have the virus, 7% of all inpatients.

Despite the increase in recent months, the number remains well below the peak 2,054 inpatients (23% of total), recorded by Public Health Wales in the week to March 1, 2021.

Hospital admissions have risen during recent months, but remain below those recorded at the height of the second wave Credit: PA Images

NHS Wales' chief executive, Andrew Goodall, has warned that the dual challenge of the Covid pandemic and other respiratory viruses will make winter "one of the hardest we have ever faced".

Concerns are also mounting that a continued rise in cases could lead to a third major spike in deaths.

Modelling by Swansea University predicts that deaths could reach 20-30 per day in Wales, compared to around 35 during the first peak last year and around 45 per day during last winter.

The Welsh Government's technical advisory group also predicts hospitalisations could double in the coming month to around 100 per day, a similar rate to that experienced during the first wave of the virus.

Dr Simon Williams, a public health behavioural scientist at Swansea University, told ITV Wales: “It’s a very worrying situation. As far as cases are concerned, the UK has one of the highest case rates in the world, and Wales has the highest in the UK. 

“What worries me is NHS capacity. Beds are currently at around 90% capacity and this vague idea that we aren’t going to introduce new restrictions until the NHS is overwhelmed doesn’t match up with what people in the NHS are saying. 

“We talk about what we have learnt from previous waves, about going harder earlier, and you have ask should we be doing more now?"Wales' health minister Eluned Morgan has insisted the reintroduction of Covid restrictions before Christmas are currently "unlikely".

On Friday, a Welsh Government spokesperson told ITV Wales: “We are monitoring the situation very closely. Unlike in England, we have maintained the use of face coverings in most indoor public spaces and on public transport and continue to ask people to work from home where they can.

"We have also introduced Covid passes for people attending large events or nightclubs as part of a package of measures to help reduce the spread of the virus.

"Whilst the very high rates of vaccination have reduced the risk of people falling seriously ill with coronavirus, it is clear that we are in for a very challenging winter period.

"We all have a role to play to reduce the risk of the virus spreading and ensuring our NHS is able to deal with the very high levels of demand over the coming winter months.

"We would urge anyone yet to have the vaccine to come forward and help keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”

Uptake of vaccine second dose by age group (PHW)

Uptake of the second vaccine dose by priority group (PHW):

80 years and older: 95.3%

75-79 years: 96.3%

70-74 years: 95.8%

65-69 years: 94.3%

60-64 years: 92.4%

55-59 years: 90.4%

50-54 years: 88.2%

40-49 years: 82.2%

30-39 years: 73.4%

18-29 years: 70.3%

16-17 years: 23.5%

12-15 years: 0.3%

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Despite the Welsh Government's messaging, Dr Williams said the onus is on them to act before the NHS is overwhelmed, but warned any reintroduction of restrictions would be a "hard sell".

He continued: “Wales’ slow rate of vaccinating younger people is a big reason why we are where we are. 

“We cannot increase capacity, and the onus and responsibility has to be on the Welsh Government to better facilitate the booster programme and vaccination of younger people.

"Any reintroduction of restrictions would be a hard sell for people who were told the vaccination programme was a route out of the pandemic.

“I think there could be an issue with compliance because the psychology has changed for a lot of people. It is almost as if the vaccines provided a finish line. 

“People have been willing to do what they had to do throughout, and people will be really disheartened by the idea of going back to stay at home messaging or restrictions on gatherings."