OVER the recent week there have been some ‘very troubling developments’ in relation to the Delta variant of coronavirus, the Health Minister has said.

Public Health Wales (PHW) warned community transmission of the variant may have begun and urged people to get vaccinated and keep to social distancing measures.

The number of cases of the Delta variant in Wales has almost doubled within a week to 178.

But the alert is tempered by the latest figures for coronavirus deaths which shows that fewer people are dying from Covid-19.

On Tuesday, PHW said the number of confirmed cases of the mutated strain of the virus had increased by 81 since June 3.

In a written statement, Eluned Morgan MS said Wales continued to report the lowest rate of cases in the UK which reflects the ‘hard work’ of people to keep their families safe.

However over recent weeks she said they have seen ‘very troubling developments’ in relation to the new variant which is ‘further proof coronavirus has not gone away’.

She said: “We have been carefully monitoring this new variant, which appears to be spreading in many parts of England. We have identified a growing number of cases here in Wales, including a large cluster of cases in Conwy which is under close investigation.

“This delta variant has the potential to become the next dominant strain of the virus in the UK. We hope we can contain cases and prevent this variant spreading further but we expect the number of cases in Wales will continue to increase.

“Whilst the public health situation therefore remains good in Wales, the delta variant brings a new level of uncertainty. It was in this context the most recent review of the coronavirus restrictions took place on 3 June.”

The majority of cases are located in clusters in both South Wales and North Wales, particularly in Llandudno and Penrhyn Bay where community testing has been increased.

Eluned Morgan went on to say that the majority of restrictions eased were for outdoor activities due to s ‘lower risk of transmission’ and would allow people to ‘take advantage of summer’.

But Wales’ approach into Alert Level 1 will be phase to allow for more data and more vaccinations to be rolled out.

It is expected all over 18’s will have been offered their first dose of the vaccine by the end of next week and have hit the third milestone by the end of June, a month earlier than expected.

The Minister added: “We are also planning to reoffer the vaccine to those who did not take up the original offer. The roll out of second doses will also continue.

“To underpin this delivery, an online system will be established in the Autumn to allow people to book appointments convenient for them. This system could potentially be used for other vaccinations moving forward.”

As Wales begins to resume non-emergency care following the pandemic, Ms Morgan said they have an opportunity to ‘create a health and care system fit for the future’.

She said: “Following the three week review of the restrictions on international travel, we are following the same traffic-light approach to international travel as the rest of the UK.

“From today Portugal has been moved from green to the amber list. This decision follows increased concern in the spread of variants, including a mutation of the Delta variant, and the risk posed of bringing these back to the UK if people are not required to quarantine.

“Seven countries have also been added to the red list, including Egypt and Sri Lanka.

“I have today described some of the most recent developments in our ongoing efforts to tackle coronavirus. It remains vital we continue to work together to keep each other safe and to keep Wales safe.”

At Tuesday’s Welsh Parliament plenary, Mark Drakeford said the “troubling” rise in variant cases “gives us all pause for thought”.

Scientists believe the latest variant is more transmissible than the Kent or Alpha variant which has been overtaken as the UK’s dominant strain, though they have been unable to discount the contribution of increased social mixing due to eased restrictions.

Latest evidence shows that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are effective against the variant after two doses.

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director at PHW, said though the increase of variant cases was expected it was still “concerning” to see.

“The increase is likely to be driven in part by the transmissibility of the variant, which we know is easier to catch than the previously dominant Alpha variant,” he said.

“However, increased mixing also contributes to transmission, and this may be playing a part too.

“The spread of the Delta variant in Wales is a reminder that we should not become complacent, even as rates of coronavirus across Wales remain low.”

But while variant cases are on the rise, the number of deaths from Covid in Wales continues to go down as more people are vaccinated, with PHW reporting no new deaths from Covid for 10 days in a row before Monday.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which publishes figures of registered deaths in a wider range of settings where the virus is confirmed or suspected, reported just three deaths in the last week, the lowest number since September last year.