COMPLETE eradication of Covid will be ‘near impossible’, a health chief has said.

At the Welsh Government conference on January 13, Dr Frank Atherton, chief medical officer for Wales said there was some positive but ‘cautious’ news that Covid may be beginning to ‘stabilise in Wales’.

However, he warned people that they still need to be cautious as ‘things can take off very quickly’ and there is still the new strain, which spreads faster.

When asked about whether Covid could be ‘eradicated’ forever, he said there is only one disease which has ever been eradicated completely and that is smallpox as ‘eradication is near impossible’.

He added that it is a certainty we will have to ‘learn to live with the virus’, but we do not know what will happen as the virus mutates.

The CMO said the virus could mutate to a ‘more milder form’ on an annual basis but it is ‘too early to say’.

He added that coronavirus will ‘be on the planet for some time to come’.

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Dr Frank Atherton was joined by Dr Andrew Goodall, chief executive of NHS Wales who gave a stark update on the reality of the NHS.

Dr Goodall said the first weeks of January are traditionally the most challenging but this winter will be the most challenging they will ever experience.

He said there are still ‘significant concerns’ over the NHS ability to carry out services and it will be a while before admissions start to fall.

He told the nation this is ‘very real’ and should listen to what NHS staff are saying.

Dr Goodall said there are over 2,800 people with Covid symptoms in hospitals and more than a third of beds are occupied by these patients.

He said this is ‘simply unprecedented’ and added nearly two thirds of ICU patients have Covid.

Dr Goodall said 15 per cent of ambulance calls are for coronavirus and his ‘greatest concern’ is the impact on critical care.

With over 150 people in critical care with Covid, this is the highest seen and the average age is just 59, with almost twice as many men than women.

Interventions like the lockdown were put in place to impact on covid rates but there is a lag from cases reported to hospital admissions

He said an eye must be kept on North Wales due to increasing cases and since December, people in critical care with the virus has ‘increased fourfold’ showing how things can change in a matter of days.

Dr Frank Atherton did provide some good news however, that there are some encouraging signs Covid was stabilising across Wales.

There was a small fall in overall rate to about 410 cases per 100,000 people and the rate of positive tests has dropped to around one in four.

But this is ‘not evenly spread’ as in North East Wales there are particularly high rates, particularly in Flintshire and Wrexham. He said this is possibly being driven to a degree by the new strain.

However, he did say there was ‘always a sting in the tail’ as we do not know how much further spread the new variant will cause.

Dr Atherton said it has recently emerged that the pandemic has caused excess deaths which are the highest since the Second World War, with Wales passing 5,000 deaths.

He went on to say the NHS is still under ‘very real pressure’ and although most people are obeying the rules, most is ‘not enough’.

He said it is more important than ever that everyone follows the rules.

Around 38 per cent of people with coronavirus who need critical care did not survive and because there are more patients, we have seen more deaths.