Wales still has highest Covid rate in UK despite falling cases

Wales remains the UK nation with the highest Covid-19 infection rate despite falling cases for the second week in a row, according to the latest figures. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that 172,300 people in Wales contracted the virus in the week ending April 23, equivalent to 5.67% of the population or around one in 18 people .

This is down from the 198,400 people (6.53%) who had the disease in Wales in the previous week, or around one in 15 people. The rate of positive cases appears to be highest in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, followed by the region covering Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil, although the differences between the regions are “small”. Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Powys all have lower positivity rates.

It was a similar picture in England and Scotland, each again seeing a drop in their Covid levels. In England, around one in 25 (4.42%) had Covid in the week ending April 23, while it was also one in 25 in Scotland (4.14%). However, Northern Ireland has seen a slight increase in infections, with 74,700 people likely to have had Covid-19 in the past week, or one in 25, compared to 65,300 people, or one in 30. The ONS described the trend in Northern Ireland as “uncertain”.

The data suggests that the recent coronavirus outbreak, driven primarily by the Omicron BA.2 variant, has peaked. However, the virus is still circulating at high levels in much of the country. You can get more health news and other story updates by subscribing to our newsletters here.

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Across the UK, some 2.9 million people in private households are estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to April 23, up from 3.8 million the previous week. The total number of infections in the UK hit a weekly record of 4.9 million at the end of March.

The ONS Infection Survey is now the most reliable measure of the prevalence of Covid-19 in the UK. It uses a sample of swab tests collected regularly from tens of thousands of households, and is therefore able to estimate the percentage of people likely to test positive for coronavirus at any time, regardless of when they have caught the virus, how many times they have had it and if they have any symptoms.

Meanwhile, the latest data from lateral flow tests carried out in Wales shows there have been fewer positive tests over the past week, down from 16,043 the previous week to 12,194 for the week of 18 to April 24. However, changes to testing requirements, such as tests are only available to people with symptoms, meaning it is no longer a reliable guide to the pandemic.

Hospital figures show that the number of people in acute care hospitals being treated for Covid, rather than being hospitalized for another reason and testing positive for Covid, has remained relatively stable over the past week. On April 28, 455 “confirmed” Covid patients were hospitalized but only 86 of them were actively being treated for the virus. A week earlier, those numbers were 572 and 89, respectively.

The number of patients in intensive care beds with Covid increased last week, from 18 on April 22 to 25 on April 28. Cardiff and Vale UHB have by far the most of any health board with 12, followed by Hywel Dda UHB with six, Swansea Bay UHB with three and Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB and Betsi Cadwaladr UHB with two.