Wales has recorded 131 more cases of the Delta variant of coronavirus in just four days since the last figures were published, it has been revealed.
Public Health Wales (PHW) has now identified 315 cases of the strain – which first emerged in India – since it started spreading in Wales just a few weeks ago.
The NHS trust has confirmed that this variant is now the dominant strain of new cases of coronavirus in Wales, overtaking the Kent – or Alpha – variant which spread across the country over the winter period.
PHW said localised community transmission of the variant “is evident”, with the majority of new cases not being connected to international travel.
Follow live updates as Wales’ economy minister Vaughan Gething gives an update on the nation’s response to coronavirus in Monday’s press conference here.
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Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the coronavirus response, said: “This is a significant development, but one we have predicted, as we know the Delta variant is easier to catch than the previously dominant Alpha variant. It is thought that increased mixing is contributing to transmission and we are concerned at this rise in cases.
“There is much we can do to protect ourselves and others. Latest evidence shows that both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are effective against the Delta variant after two doses and so it’s so important to take up the offer of both vaccines.
“By remaining at least two metres away from everyone else, washing our hands regularly, and wearing a face covering we can keep ourselves and our friends and family safe. If you develop any symptoms, you must self-isolate and get a test if you or anyone in your household develop symptoms.”
PHW said the majority of the Delta cases in Wales have been focused around a cluster in north Wales and a cluster in south Wales – but it is also starting to see unlinked cases in these areas and elsewhere in Wales.
Speaking on Monday afternoon, economy minister Vaughan Gething admitted the Delta variant “continues to present challenges”.
He said: “It has quickly become the dominant form of new Covid cases in England and Scotland with over 42,000 cases identified. In Wales we have identified 315 cases of the delta variant. Despite our extensive efforts to minimise the spread, we expect to see more.
“The Delta variant has meant that we needed to take a phased approach to moving to alert level one. We are relaxing restrictions around outdoor events and activities first because the evidence suggests the risk of infection is significantly lower outdoors than indoors.
“While this is absolutely the right decision for Wales we recognise the impact it will have on a significant number of our businesses, particularly wedding venues and indoor attractions.”
On Friday Health Minister Eluned Morgan urged people to holiday at home this summer in a bid to stop the spread of new and more transmissible variants.
Wales is following the same traffic-light approach as the rest of the UK for international travel. Countries are classified as green, amber and red depending on their public health status and vaccine rates. Only a handful of destinations have green status.
“This is the year to enjoy everything that Wales has to offer – including the weather – and holiday at home,” she said.
“We are encouraging everyone to only travel overseas for essential reasons. We have all worked so hard over the winter months to bring coronavirus under control in Wales, we don’t want to see new cases and new variants come into the country through overseas travel.
“We have a world-class vaccination programme and more than eight out of 10 adults have had their first dose but we cannot be complacent.
“Now more than ever we need to work together to keep Wales safe, control the spread of coronavirus, especially the new Delta variant and protect the gains we have made.”