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Chief Medical Officer for Wales statement on COVID-19 review: 10 February 2022.

First published:
11 February 2022
Last updated:

Community rates of COVID-19 infection have stabilised albeit at a relatively high level and NHS pressures from severe illness and ICU bed occupancy have fallen. Whilst some ongoing harm from this highly transmissible virus remains unavoidable, the vaccination programme and lower severity from the Omicron variant have meant that we have experienced much lower direct harms than were predicted in the modelling and witnessed in previous waves. 

We are unaware of any significant variants of concern on the immediate horizon but SARS-CoV2 will continue to mutate and there remains a risk of future variants either bypassing population immunity or causing more serious illness in infected individuals. We should continue to work across the 4 UK Nations to develop effective domestic and international surveillance for COVID-19 and other respiratory pathogens.

In addition to the risk from COVID-19 there is also uncertainty as to whether we will see a late flu season resulting in renewed pressure on our already stressed healthcare system. A gradual easement of our residual protections is therefore appropriate, with the removal of the requirement to wear face coverings in ‘optional’ indoor public places but retention of a mandatory status on public transport, in retail outlets and in health and social care settings. As a low burden and generally accepted NPI, this requirement could be further reviewed when the spring weather arrives. I am in support of moving to the voluntary use of the COVID Pass alongside supporting businesses to continue to risk assess, not only in response to COVID-19 but as part of standard good practice for health and safety. Continuing to employ legislation and offer financial support for positive cases to isolate remains an important and proportionate public health measure in order to protect others and prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Sir Frank Atherton
CMO Wales