Rate of Covid in Wales almost three times higher than in England

17 December 2020, 14:17 | Updated: 17 December 2020, 14:25

Wales Covid infection rate has soared to its highest level since the pandemic began
Wales Covid infection rate has soared to its highest level since the pandemic began. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The rate of coronavirus infection in Wales over the past seven days has soared to 530.2, nearly three times higher than England's.

Thursday's seven-day-rolling average represents an increase of around 30 per cent on Wednesday's figure, which stood at 377.8, with the number expected to rise over the next few days.

By comparison, England's latest data shows there are on average 196.3 cases per 100,000 people for the seven days up to 12 December, while Scotland's rate stands at 111.8.

The figures include a backlog of samples processed in the UK Government's lighthouse laboratories from a period of over a week that were missed off updates for previous days.

However, it is still an accurate representation of the extent to which Covid-19 is spreading as it is based on the date the tests were done, not the date the test results were included on the system.

It is the highest infection rate any of the four UK nations have seen since the beginning of the pandemic, while 14 of Wales' 22 local authority areas now have their highest case rates since it started.

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First Minister Mark Drakeford said the extra 11,000 positive coronavirus tests missing from official figures in Wales demonstrate "how serious the position" in the country is.

Maintenance work on Public Health Wales (PHW) systems at the end of last week meant the numbers were not included on top of 11,911 positive cases reported by the agency between 9 and 15 December.

On Thursday Mr Drakeford denied the data had been "missing" from the country's figures in recent days and was known by the Welsh Government.

He told BBC Breakfast: "This was planned upgrading of the computer system, none of the data is missing, everybody who had a positive test in Wales was told that last week, everything was uploaded on to our Track, Trace and Protect system.

"But the figures do demonstrate just how serious the position here in Wales has become and underlines why we made the decisions yesterday both in the lead-up to Christmas, during Christmas, and once Christmas is over.

"The Government was aware that there were tests that are being carried out which were not being loaded on to the system because that is what we already announced."

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A statement from PHW said its dashboard was being updated with the figures following the work on its NHS Welsh Laboratory Information Management System (WLIMS).

It said: "This means that we expect a backlog of results to come through over the coming days, and there will be a period of data reconciliation and validation that will affect our daily reporting figures for several days.

"(Thursday's) figures and those over the following days will be higher as a result of the backlog coming through."

The agency added: "It has not affected individuals receiving their results and the contact tracing process being commenced.

"Members of the public can be reassured that anyone who tests positive will be contacted by their local authority's Test, Trace, Protect team in the usual way. There have been no errors in the Public Health Wales reporting."

Meanwhile, PHW recorded a further 52 deaths on Thursday and another 11,468 new infections, bringing the nation's tallies since the beginning of the pandemic to 2,973 fatalities and 114,566 cases.

On Wednesday, the Welsh Government confirmed that the number of households allowed to mix over Christmas would be reduced by law from three to two.

It came after days of speculation and confusion between the four UK nations on the relaxation of restrictions between 23 and 27 December.

Wales will also enter a three-week Level 4 lockdown, effectively another firebreak, from 28 December.

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