Covid case rates in Wales are rising almost three times faster than those in England despite tougher restrictions being in place, according to the latest figures.
People in Wales have been living under alert level two measures since Boxing Day. The measures include mandatory face coverings in all indoor settings, a six-person limit for meeting in public places and the closure of nightclubs.
Despite the measures, the country’s Covid cases have almost doubled since Dec 26, with an overall increase of 94 per cent, according to the latest government data. In comparison, England’s cases have increased by only 34 per cent.
Under England’s Plan B measures – less strict than in Wales – people have been told to work from home wherever possible, wear face coverings on public transport and in public places and show proof of their Covid vaccination status to access large events and nightclubs.
Cases in Wales have risen almost three times faster than in England
It comes as Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, confirmed on Friday that alert level two measures will remain in place for at least one more week, with case rates "rising steeply".
"Cases are far higher now than they were at the peak of all previous waves," Mr Drakeford told a Welsh government press conference.
He said the omicron "storm" had hit Wales and warned that the "peak" of the wave could be another 10 to 14 days away.
"Omicron is now the dominant form of the virus in Wales and cases are rising rapidly every day," he said, adding that previous Covid waves "are nothing compared to the size and speed" of omicron.
The latest figures show there are more than 2,300 cases per 100,000 people across Wales, compared to 1,271 across England.
Mr Drakeford also said 994 Covid patients are currently in hospitals, representing a 43 per cent increase in a single week. "That number is the highest we have seen in Welsh hospitals since March of last year," he added, saying that, of the 40 people with the virus in critical care, "the majority have not been vaccinated".
Mark Drakeford warned that the omicron 'storm' had hit Wales, with the variant now dominant
Credit: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
The First Minister said the "worrying figures" were still in line with modelling forecasts, but warned that the public health situation in Wales had "changed dramatically" since Christmas Day.
He faced criticism last month after the Welsh government introduced a £60 fine for anyone unnecessarily travelling to the office after Boxing Day.
The enforcement of work from home rules was branded "outrageous", and critics were quick to point out that Welsh people could legally still visit a pub, shop or restaurant but could effectively be criminalised for going to work.
Mr Drakeford said the rules would be re-evaluated on a weekly basis due to the speed at which omicron was spreading, adding that its infectiousness continued to be a "cause for concern".
"Over the next two weeks it will be more important than ever to keep on doing all those things which have helped to protect us all throughout the pandemic," he said.