Advice presented to the First Minister on the changes to the Health Protection Regulations.
With cases of COVID-19 increasing Wales and in the rest of the UK, it is clear that we are in the pre-peak stage of a third wave of the pandemic.
The resurgence of cases is most marked in younger age groups: a reflection of transmission among those who are least likely to have had the benefit of vaccination and who experience higher levels of social mixing. Older age cohorts are not exempt from infection but rates are lower and we are probably seeing a protective effect from our vaccination programme. The number of patients in welsh hospitals with COVID-19 is currently low but the extent to which vaccination has weakened the link between community transmission and serious illness is not yet clear.
Given these continued uncertainties, I support the proposal that further lifting of restrictions should be delayed for a short period of time. This pause will enable a greater proportion of adults to take up the offer of a second dose: this will provide significantly more protection for our population. It will also allow us to better understand the dynamics of transmission and harms in England and Scotland which are 1-2 weeks ahead of Wales in the current wave of viral resurgence.
The need for the Welsh public to continue personal protective behaviours during the summer and into the autumn should be consistently communicated; isolation and testing for anyone who develops symptoms, regular hand hygiene, the use of face coverings in crowded indoor settings, and social distancing all still have an important place in mitigating the risk of transmission.
I also advise communicating the importance of environmental mitigations such as ventilation which will contribute to our social and work settings being ‘COVID-secure’ and I welcome the revisions to the Regulations which reflect our scientific understanding of viral transmission and support the necessary risk assessment and reasonable measures being put in place.
Dr Frank Atherton
Chief Medical Officer