Are Omicron cases really peaking in Wales?

The Omicron variant is now dominant in England, Wales and Scotland and has pushed infection rates to record levels in all three countries.

There is a general consensus that rates in Wales are about one to two weeks behind the increase seen in London over Christmas.

It is encouraging, then, to see that almost all local authorities in Wales are now seeing a drop in their infection rates. Read more here.

Is it too early to say that the Omicron wave is at its peak? Are there other factors at play that are affecting the true picture of Covid in Wales? And should we be looking at other data instead of just daily case numbers?

First, let’s look at only daily cases in Wales: positive cases are only included in the main case data if they test positive by PCR. The latest seven-day infection rate is 1,997 on a seven-day basis till January 5 – a significant drop from the 2,215 recorded on Sunday. The infection rate has declined for two consecutive days. Looking at the figures for those two days, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the infection rate has been falling for 72 hours.

Is this as good news as it appears or are there other factors involved? First, a change in Wales’ policy on testing for the coronavirus in the past week will yet have no effect on the figures.

There is no longer a need for follow-up PCR testing after a positive LFT for asymptomatic individuals. This means fewer people will test positive using the PCR test, which will be reflected in the latest daily case data. PHW estimates that this will reduce about 10% of the total cases being reported.

However, this change came only on 6 January. The infection rate figures we report on Monday are from the week to January 4. So the apparent drop in infection rate is likely to remain unaffected by this.

However, the data will still be affected by the Christmas and New Year period, which may have affected the number of people coming forward for testing.

There is no doubt that the number of people who tested themselves during the Christmas period increased significantly as they made decisions about whether it was safe to travel.

But there are other indicators that suggest the omicron wave of cases may be peaking. It is clear in the graph above that the positivity rate in Wales increased during the week before Christmas, from around 60% on Christmas Day. This means that six out of every 10 people who are coming back positive are being screened. On December 29, more than 32,000 tests were conducted in just one day. Since then it has fallen almost as rapidly as during the first week of 2022. It is inevitable that, if more people would not have done so than would not have been tested, then more cases would be captured.

Can the apparent drop in infection rates in Wales be attributed to the restrictions imposed on Boxing Day? It’s been two weeks now and their effect should be gone by now, even if you take into account the modified behavior of people at Christmas.

In this way Wales is compared to England and Scotland. At first glance it is difficult to see whether the restrictions in Wales have had any major impact.

In all four home countries, nearly three million cases were reported in the last three weeks – the same as in the 12 weeks before that. But while the cases and positivity rates are at record highs in all countries, the data is not directly comparable.

First, the daily case data in England does not include re-infections, unlike Wales, which reports re-infections of COVID-19 as long as they are 42 days apart.

Public Health Wales confirmed that it does not currently report episodes of coronavirus reinfection separately from overall case episode numbers, but added: “It is currently developing a method to report on coronavirus reinfection in a systematic manner.” Work is underway, it’s likely to take a few weeks. I finished.”

This means that people who already have covid may now have Omicron, but they are not being reported in the English data. Data indicates that there were more than 140,000 re-infections in England in the past two weeks and these are not on the daily dashboard, although there are plans to include these in the coming weeks. So you can expect the Welsh infection rate to be higher than in England.

but england does Unlike Wales, include positive LFT results in your daily case data.

What is clear from the above graph is that even after the ban was in place, cases continued to appear in Wales, which for seven days had little or no effect on the rate of cases. The infection rate has declined sharply since 2 January, while the rate is falling in England too, but at a much slower rate. It is probably still too early to attribute this shortcoming to something specific like the sanctions announced by the Welsh First Minister. But it is worth noting that the three nations exhibit similar tendencies despite having different sanctions.

Another factor to consider is the ONS transition survey – which is not affected by test capability – which shows dwarfs past Omicron peaks. It is worth noting that Chris Whitty chose to focus on ONS infection survey data in the latest No. 10 briefing, citing 1 in 15 infected in England and 1 in 20 infected in Wales.

But some experts believe that the COVID pandemic will give way to a scenario where COVID is only endemic within a population, looking at the number of people in hospitals as a better indicator of COVID status.

There is no doubt that the number of people in hospital with Covid in the UK is increasing rapidly and it is not far from the peak in the first wave. But, fewer people require intensive care, indicating that omicron is a milder form of the virus. And furthermore, while admissions both for and with COVID are increasing rapidly, hospital admissions as a percentage of all positive cases are falling. How the infection develops in older groups will be important, as these groups are more likely to require hospital treatment.

Deaths are hard to explain right now with reporting delayed for the holiday period, but they have increased in Wales over the past week or two. Fewer people need intensive care and with many older adults now fully promoted, there is hope that deaths will not rise too much.

Omicron’s rise has been very rapid and the variant has shown itself to be very good at infecting vaccinated people – even boosted gives you about 40% protection after 10 weeks. According to experts from the independent SEZ group, the booster gives 88% protection against hospital admissions. It is slightly worse than the Delta variant.

When analyzing restrictions and their relative effects, it is important to look at hospital admission statistics as well. As can be seen in the graph below, admissions are closing in in England and Wales – but England is more than twice the level of Wales.

It is clear that analyzing the data is not as linear as using only one measurement. Wales are trailing England by about 10-14 days, still very early days for analysis.

Any restrictions introduced by the government concerned are unlikely to work immediately – it is usually 7-10 days before we can start to see any effect.

What we do know is that with staffing sickness rapidly climbing within the NHS, with the pressure of COVID and a high existing hospital load and social care, many hospitals are in crisis. And while the impact of returning schools is still unknown, it is too early to say that the Omicron wave has reached its peak.

The Independent Sage Group has said it’s too late for the circuit breaker – the time for that was in December, he says. Now it’s about mitigating the “comedown wave” – ​​which is already happening – as quickly as possible. One factor that may prolong this is the new wave of schools. As we have seen during previous waves, different ages will peak at different times.

The risk of “muddling” is that we descend slow, resulting in a lot of disease, disruption and prolonged NHS pressure. All four UK countries were unable to slow Omicron’s growth, so the challenge now is to accelerate its decline.

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