The areas of Wales where the Omicron strain has been found

The areas of Wales where the Omicron strain has been found

Close to half the situations of the Omicron variant of coronavirus have been found in one part of Wales, it has been revealed.

According to Public Health Wales, 32 situations have so far been identified of the mutant strain which studies have shown is highly transmissible.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has to date recorded 14 of them, by far the most in Wales, followed by Betsi Cadwaladr UHB and Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB with five each and Aneurin Bevan UHB with four.

In other parts of the country, including Swansea Bay UHB (two), Hywel Dda UHB (one) and Powys Teaching (one), the strain has not been identified to any great extent in genomic sequencing.

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However, the number of situations is expected to rise exponentially over the coming days and weeks as we approach Christmas.

Dr Meng Khaw, national director for health protection and screening sets for Public Health Wales, said: “Public Health Wales is today (Tuesday, December 14) confirming two new situations of Omicron variant in Wales, bringing us to a total of 32 situations. As we have said before, an increase in situations of Omicron variant in Wales is to be expected.”

Researchers around the world are rapidly investigating why the Omicron variant is moving so quickly, whether it causes a more harsh form of illness and how it will behave as it spreads into different countries.

The focus is now on offering booster jabs to all eligible adults across Wales by the end of December in line with England and Scotland.

Dr Gill Richardson, the deputy chief medical officer for vaccinations, said in the Welsh Government press conference on Tuesday: “Over the weekend, preliminary studies emerged suggesting both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines may provide much lower levels of protection against symptomatic infection compared to the protection they provide against the Delta variant. But protection improves considerably after a booster measure.

“What this method for vaccine effectiveness against harsh disease from Omicron is nevertheless emerging. But, the message is clear – two doses of the vaccine is not enough to protect us against Omicron. We all need a booster measure to increase our protection against the virus.”

In the same press conference, health minister Eluned Morgan said all obtainable clinical staff in Wales will be redeployed to vaccination centres as Wales massively accelerates the delivery of booster jabs.

Walk-in lanes are also being introduced at some mass vaccination centres as administrators aim to offer jabs to up to 60,000 people a day before the end of December. Baroness Morgan said delivering boosters is the “number one priority”.

She said: “We have been working with health boards since the weekend to make changes to the vaccination programme to go further and faster.

“This will average the focus of the NHS will need to shift towards vaccinating people for a short time. The NHS will continue to provide basic sets, emergency and urgent care. But we will be redeploying all obtainable clinical staff to vaccination centres.”

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