The coronavirus outbreak in Gwent is following “the same pattern as we’re seeing in Italy”, the director of public health at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) has said.
The outbreak has killed 7,503 people in Italy, with nearly 75,000 reported cases of the virus in the country.
The Covid-19 death rate in Italy is currently the highest in the world.
Figures released on Wednesday (March 25) revealed there are currently 628 reported cases in Wales – 309 of them in Gwent.
ABUHB’s Sarah Aitken said: “In Gwent we are seeing a rapidly rising increase in the number of cases of coronavirus in the community, the number of people being admitted to hospital and the number of people dying of the virus.
“The pattern we are seeing in Gwent is the same pattern seen in Italy where their healthcare system is now overwhelmed.
“Without a huge effort by all of us, we are heading for the moment in Gwent where our NHS will be overwhelmed too.
“We won’t have enough hospital beds for everyone who needs life-saving ventilators and intensive care.”
Ms Aitken urged residents to follow government advice to give the health board “essential time to bring more doctors and nurses into our workforce, so that we can open additional hospital beds, have extra ventilators and intensive care beds, giving us the best possible chance of caring for all those who need it in the weeks to come.”
She added: “So please, stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”
Gwent is made up of Caerphilly County Borough, Newport, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire council areas.
Wales’ chief medical officer, Dr Frank Atherton, said one of the reasons for Gwent’s high infection rate is because it’s “closer to England”.
Dr Atherton said: “We know that the hotspot in the UK is around London, and so being on the border with England is an issue.
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“The second reason is that there has been a lot more testing in that particular health board, so as a natural consequence there has been more cases identified.
“It’s a complex issue. The underlying message is that the virus is circulating widely in all parts of Wales. At the moment it may be circulating to a higher degree in South Wales but that may change over time.
“It’s a very fluid, very dynamic situation that we are trying to keep a watch on.”
Dr Atherton also said the number of tests being carried out in Wales will be “ramped up”.
Latest information on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Most cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) seem to be mild.
Coronavirus is a viral disease that can cause coughing, fever and difficulty breathing. It can be more severe in older people, those with weakened immune systems and some long-term conditions like diabetes or cancer.
Source: Public Health Wales