North Wales is facing a “late recovery” in coronavirus cases, but the reasons for the wave are unclear, says the Minister of Health of Wales.
Vaughan Gething said that increasing test levels may be a factor, but there were also other causes that have not yet been established.
Data released by Public Health Wales in the past few days has shown that North Wales is experiencing the largest number of new Covid-19 cases in the country.
A total of 45 cases were reported in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board region on Friday, including 18 in Denbighshire, the second highest figure in any Welsh county.
The other hotspot county in the region is Conwy which, with Denbighshire, has higher hospital admissions than Wrexham, Flintshire, Anglesey and Gwynedd.
The confirmed cases per 100,000 residents are the highest in these two counties: for Denbighshire the figure is 496, followed by Conwy at 373.
In contrast, the figures for Anglesey and Flintshire are 263 and 265 respectively.
Gething said: “There has been a slight increase in coronavirus in North Wales, but this effect is not even in the whole region.
“This probably reflects a later part of the North Wales epidemic, and also because we have had many more tests, so more results are provided.”
His comments are slightly at odds with those of dr. Andrew Goodall, managing director of the NHS in Wales.
He said a recent increase in positive Covid-19 tests in North Wales could be evidence of greater transmission, but was more likely due to an increase in tests.
Until now, there hasn’t been an increase in people who showed up in hospitals with the virus, he said.
Denbighshire test levels per head of population are double those of Flintshire.
Conwy is the next most tested county in North Wales based on the number of residents.
Gething said that although there has been a “delay” in the North Wales infection curve, the region has not been hit as hard as areas of Southeast Wales such as Cardiff, Newport and Merthyr Tydfil.
The infection rates have been “significantly higher,” said the minister, in part because the virus spreads more rapidly in more densely populated areas.
In other hotspot areas in Wales, the reasons for the spread of the community were less clear, he said.
“It is not instinctively the case that there is an environmental explanation for why Conwy and Denbighshire have different levels of infection with Wrexham and Flintshire,” said Gething.
“We will still need to know more, as well as understand where we are in different parts of the country.
“This will inform the national choices we need to make to facilitate the blockade.”
However, infection patterns seem to weaken theories that Corvid-19 could spread west through north Wales from the large cities in north-west England, the minister said.
If so, the levels of infection could be expected to be higher in North East Wales.
Gething added: “If you are observing the broader east-west transmission, you may not expect hospitalizations to be higher in central North Wales.
“Some of these may be related to other problems and we will have to take a step back to fully understand it.
“Part of the difficulty for ministers, policy makers and people who advise us is that the evidence is constantly changing.
“We don’t have a complete understanding of the whole image, although we can see the danger in front of us.
“That’s why we’re taking a deliberately cautious approach to moving forward.”
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