Wales chief doctor explains why spike in coronavirus arrived much earlier than expected


The peak of coronavirus cases in Wales arrived “much earlier” than expected, confirmed the Chief Physician for Wales.

Dr Frank Atherton, speaking to the press Thursday from the Welsh government headquarters in Cathays Park, Cardiff, said it was due to government action and public support.

Public Health Wales has announced that more than 900 people have died in Wales after being tested positive for Covid-19 and there are nearly 10,000 cases overall.

Chief Doctor Dr. Frank Atherton

Dr Atherton predicted, at the very beginning of March, when Wales saw its first cases of infection, that we would witness a resurgence of cases in April, a possible peak around May / June and a new one. decrease in July / August.

Thursday he said, “When we think back to where we were [in early March] it looked like we were in a period of exponential growth.

“We thought the peak would have been in May, June or July – somewhere in that range.

“We spoke at the time of” flattening the curve “so as not to exceed the capacity of the NHS. In fact, our measurements in Wales and the UK did more than flatten the curve. They absolutely crushed the curve.

“So the numbers are much, much less than we expected and that is why, we think, the peak came earlier. “

This map shows the areas of the council that recorded the most cases on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

However, he admitted that by flattening the curve, there was a risk of the virus “resurfacing” if the restrictions were lifted too early.

“The modeling suggests that if we open our measurements too early in the UK, we could see a second big wave that could continue into the fall period, which would be really bad news because that’s when the flu virus begins to circulate.

“Honestly, we don’t know if there will be a second, third or fourth peak, but we have to assume for the moment that the disease will come back. “

According to the latest NHS figures, the number of patients hospitalized for a coronavirus in Wales fell below 1,000 for the first time in more than three weeks on Wednesday.

There are also 101 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units in hospitals – the lowest number since early April.

And of the 386 intensive care beds available, more than half (57%) of the beds are vacant, and field hospitals in Wales are barely used.

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When asked if it was time to start elective, non-emergency procedures in the Welsh NHS – based on the fact that critical care capacity seems to be managing so well – Dr. Atherton said, “This is one of my biggest concerns is that there is ‘hidden damage’ in the system.

“There is now a discussion with the general managers of the local boards of health and, from my point of view, the medical directors and the directors of public health, on how we can” reopen “and rejuvenate the NHS and bring back services that are no longer provided in the volume that we are used to. ”

Dr. Atherton added that when the lockout restrictions are relaxed, there should be an emphasis on community surveillance and case tracking and tracing.

“We need a much better understanding of how the virus travels in our populations and in these closed environments [of hospitals and care homes], ” he said.

“We need a clear model for tracking and tracing cases – using a combination of digital means and old fashioned public health shoe leather and contact tracing.

“We have to watch other countries in the way they lift the measures. “


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