Wales will speed up its coronavirus vaccination programme by bringing forward second jabs for people aged over 50, the country’s health minister has said.
Eluned Morgan said an additional 500,000 jabs would be made available between now and mid-July in response to the growing number of Delta variant cases in the country.
On Monday, amendments to restrictions included allowing the number of people who can attend a wedding or civil partnership reception or wake to be determined by the size of a venue instead of being limited to 30.
Small grassroots music and comedy venues can also now operate on the same basis as hospitality venues, meaning six people from six households can attend.
But significant relaxations are being put on hold for four weeks in the hope of delaying the peak of a new third wave until more people are given a vaccine, and for experts to establish whether vaccinations have altered the relationship between falling ill and needing hospital treatment.
At the Welsh Government’s press briefing in Cardiff, Baroness Morgan said Wales’ vaccination programme would also use the additional supply of jabs during that time to give second doses to those in the first nine priority groups.
“The very latest figures show that Wales has the highest percentage of adults who have received both first and second doses compared to other parts of the United Kingdom, but we want to do more and we want to do it faster,” she said.
“We all need two doses to complete the course and to have the best chance of reducing our risk of serious illness, especially as we face the spread of the Delta variant.”
Baroness Morgan said the Government was also aiming to bring forward appointments for people over 40 to make sure they were not waiting longer than eight weeks between doses.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Chris Jones told the briefing Wales was seeing “something of a race between the virus and vaccination”, and that it was “two to three weeks” behind the situation in England and Scotland.
He said there was “good emerging evidence” to suggest that two doses of the vaccine “is helping to reduce the risk of hospitalisation as a result of the Delta variant”.
He said there were now 579 confirmed cases of the variant in Wales and it was “moving quickly” across the country, with the 12 hospital admissions linked to it “likely to rise”.
Asked whether there was a risk of restrictions being reimposed at some point during the rest of the year if there were further spikes, Baroness Morgan said that “what happens next really depends on how the Welsh public respond”.
“If they did follow the suggestions when it comes to social distaining and wearing masks and washing hands regularly, then that would certainly help the situation,” she said.
“But what we do in Welsh Government is not to make any promises that we can’t keep.”
Public Health Wales said there were 484 new cases confirmed on Monday, while no further deaths were reported.