The number of patients being admitted to Welsh hospitals each day with coronavirus has fallen to levels not seen since September 2020.

Latest Welsh Government figures show there were an average of 59 hospital admissions a day with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in the last week – a drop from 71 on the previous seven days.

During the January peak as many as 160 new coronavirus patients were being seen each day by NHS Wales staff who were, in many cases, already exhausted from the first wave of infections.

But the situation appears to be changing for the better. On St David’s Day there were only 30 Covid-related admissions to all Welsh NHS hospitals, the lowest daily total since September 20, 2020. However, it did increase again to 74 on March 2 and 52 on March 3.

Hospitals in Swansea Bay UHB and Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB admitted just two confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients each on March 3, while Hywel Dda admitted one. However, higher admissions were seen in Aneurin Bevan UHB (25) and Cardiff and Vale UHB (18) on that day.

To put this into context, Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB admitted 117 people for non-Covid reasons, Swansea Bay 68 and Hywel Dda 102 on March 3. This demonstrates that the bulk of the admissions are not being dominated by Covid cases.

So it appears that while coronavirus admissions are reducing significantly, the number of patients with other illnesses and injuries is on the increase in most health board areas, meaning that pressures on the acute system are still very high.

Here’s a quick snapshot of how the admissions situation has changed in Welsh hospitals:

Betsi Cadwaladr UHB

Covid-19 admissions (confirmed and suspected)

January 12: 26

March 3: 4

Non-Covid admissions

January 12: 229

March 3: 186

Hywel Dda UHB

Covid-19 admissions (confirmed and suspected)

January 12: 10

March 3: 1

Non-Covid admissions

January 12: 79

March 3: 102

Swansea Bay UHB

Covid-19 admissions (confirmed and suspected)

January 12: 13

March 3: 2

Non-Covid admissions

January 12: 51

March 3: 68

Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB

Covid-19 admissions (confirmed and suspected)

January 12: 25

March 3: 2

Non-Covid admissions

January 12: 68

March 3: 117

Aneurin Bevan UHB

Covid-19 admissions (confirmed and suspected)

January 12: 45

March 3: 25

Non-Covid admissions

January 12: 228

March 3: 322

Cardiff and Vale UHB

Covid-19 admissions (confirmed and suspected)

January 12: 28

March 3: 18

Non-Covid admissions

January 12: 195

March 3: 289

In similarly encouraging news, the total number of coronavirus patients taking up NHS hospital beds has halved when compared with the winter peak.

On March 2, 1,460 beds were occupied with Covid-19 related patients which equates to 19% of all hospitalisations. This is a decrease from 1,747 on the same day in the previous week and is way below the 2,879 patients occupying hospital beds on January 12.

There are also positive signs when it comes to patients needing the most intensive form of treatment in critical care.

On March 2, 52 invasive ventilated beds were occupied with Covid-19 related patients which compares to 61 on the same day in the previous week. It’s also a third of the patients seen in these types of beds when compared with the April 2020 peak of 164.

Here’s the situation regarding Covid-19 patients in invasive ventilated beds in each health board (March 2):

Betsi Cadwaladr UHB: 15

Hywel Dda UHB: 3

Swansea Bay UHB: 5

Cwm Taf Morgannwg: 7

Aneurin Bevan UHB: 9

Cardiff and Vale UHB: 13

There are now 74 vacant invasive ventilated beds across Wales, which is a substantial improvement on early January when it went as low as 28.

It is thought people’s adherence to level four lockdown restrictions, as well as the successful rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, have both been key factors in driving down cases in hospitals.

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Speaking in front of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee on March 3, NHS chief executive Andrew Goodall and Chief Medical Officer Dr Frank Atherton said some of the pressures on critical care had been “contained” as a result of earlier interventions and improved drug regimes.

But they said the length of stay of patients, as well as their age, had not really differed when comparing the first and second waves.

Dr Goodall also revealed that Welsh field hospitals, which were set up in the anticipation of many more coronavirus cases being found, have never exceed 10% of their maximum capacity.

“The maximum number of patients we have had across Wales in our field hospitals has been around 227,” he told the committee.

“The total field hospital capacity was 2,700. People may be saying that is a dreadful thing because we should have been using them. They were always there for extraordinary and exceptional use.

“The fact that they have had that extra flexibility in the system, which is the size of a small district general hospital I think has helped us in our resilience.

“If we needed to go further they were available if the system had become overwhelmed to a very significant degree.”

At the peak Wales had 19 field hospitals but that has been reduced down to 10. However, it appears many will remain operational throughout the rest of this year.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “Another wave in the autumn and winter of this year is entirely possible. That has been in several Sage papers and something that we need to plan for. Whoever is in government after the election in May will have to plan for that.”

The was seconded by Dr Goodall who said: “Looking ahead as we look at the data modelling and the background, we assess the impact of vaccination [there is] an expectation that coronavirus will still be something to be lived with during the winter months and we may want to call out [field hospitals] again in the NHS as a level of extra capacity we may need as a contingency in the system to be used in winter. But it wouldn’t be to the level we saw last April, for example.”

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