THE rise in the number of Covid-positive patients being treated at Swansea Bay hospitals does not appear to be tracking the fast-moving spread of the disease in the community.

But Swansea University Health Board has stressed this should not make people complacent as a time lag was expected.

Asked if coronavirus hospital and intensive care admissions were starting to track the rising infection curve, the health board’s director of public health, Dr Keith Reid, said a “small rise” in both types of admissions were apparent.

He said the exact number could not be disclosed as it was low enough to risk identifying the patients.

“However, we must not let this lull us into a false sense of security,” said Dr Reid.

“We know there is a two-week time lag between a rise in community cases and hospital admissions and that this slow rise in admissions follows the same pattern as we saw earlier in the pandemic.

“We also know the rise in cases in Swansea has accelerated above the rate seen in the rest of Wales. And, while infections are lower in Neath Port Talbot, we have significant concerns about the pattern we are seeing there.”

The health board was also asked what it would be able to do better to treat Covid-19 patients, should there be a second surge in cases.

Dr Reid said the health board was “extremely well prepared”, with extra critical care capacity and a field hospital at the ready at Bay Studios, off Fabian Way.

“Thankfully, our communities helped flatten the wave of Covid infections by responding responsibly and positively to lockdown restrictions earlier this year, which meant these extra facilities were not needed,” he said.

“And it is not inevitable that they will be needed now as long as our communities stick to the local restrictions and stop the virus spreading.”

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According to health board figures, there were 63 new Covid cases in August. That compares to 42 and 34 in the preceding two months – and 1,356 at the height of the first wave in April.

There were no suspected or confirmed Covid-positive patients in critical care in August and no hospital deaths. The death count in April was 157.

New Wales-wide figures on Covid-related hospital patients is due to be published on October 1.

Tighter restrictions are now in force in several council areas in Wales, including Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, to reduce community transmission.

People cannot meet indoors with anyone they do not live with for the time being, unless for a reason such as providing care to a vulnerable person.

Figures for Swansea show 98.8 confirmed cases per 100,000 population, based on rolling figures from September 20 to 26, compared to 48.8 in Neath Port Talbot.

Blaenau Gwent is way ahead in Wales, with 307.7 confirmed cases per 100,000. The figure for Pembrokeshire, in contrast, is 9.5.

Speaking at a health board meeting on September 24, Dr Reid said public expectations of normal hospital services continuing alongside the care of coronavirus patients presented a “challenge of several orders of magnitude” compared to the first wave.

Among the workforce, he said, there was a “real sense of apprehension and dread about what’s coming towards us”.

He added: “It’s much more complex this time.”

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