FIRST Minister Mark Drakeford says the Omicron “storm” has hit Wales.

He said that health boards in Wales are having to make difficult decisions.

Since the start of 2022, there have been 38 deaths from Covid.

Mr Drakeford said: "As we have so often in these conferences, I just want to pause a moment to remember that figure of 38 is not just a number.

"They are people with friends and families who will no longer have those people in their midst."

The latest figures show there are more than 2,300 cases per 100,000 people across Wales.

Mr Drakeford said there were 994 people being treated with coronavirus in Welsh hospitals – a rise of 43% compared to last week and the highest number since last March.

“There are around 40 people with Covid-19 in critical care at the moment. The majority have not been vaccinated,” he said.

“Omicron is putting significant pressure on the NHS at the busiest time of the year – not just from rising hospital admissions but through staff absences.

“Our NHS workforce, which has worked so hard throughout the pandemic, is not immune to coronavirus.”

These numbers are expected to rise as the predicted peak of the Omicron wave is still ten to 14 days away.

Mr Drakeford said: "We expect to see the peak in around 10 days and hopefully to decline rapidly."

He added: “Cases are highest among 20 to 40-year-olds, but we are also seeing rises in older age groups as community transmission increases rapidly.

“These are worrying figures but they are in line with the modelling forecasts.

“Omicron is a very infectious form of the virus, which is moving quickly from person to person whenever we are in close contact with one another.

“Every contact is an opportunity for the virus to spread. As cases rise steeply in the community, the number of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 is also rising.”

However, Mr Drakeford has denied the Welsh NHS has been “overwhelmed” by the Omicron variant.

He said: “I don’t think it would be right to describe it as being overwhelmed but the health service in Wales is quite certainly having to deal with the very real impact of coronavirus – both in the way it is driving more people to fall ill and then to need hospital treatment but the fact staff in the health service are themselves falling ill from the Omicron wave.

“Health boards are having to make difficult decisions, such as in maternity services, to concentrate the staff they have available in fewer places so that a service can go on to be provided.

“Not overwhelmed but quite certainly facing very challenging circumstances.”

Ministers have decided to keep the Alert Level 2 measures in Wales for at least another week.

“We are already seeing extremely high case rates in communities and we must be prepared for cases to rise even higher, just as they have elsewhere in the UK,” Mr Drakeford said.

“This variant may not be as severe as we had initially feared but the speed at which it is travelling and its infectiousness continue to be cause for concern.

“That makes it vital that we all take action to keep each other safe. The things which have helped to protect us all throughout the pandemic will continue to protect us now.

“This includes getting vaccinated and making your booster a priority, limiting the number of people you meet who you don’t live with, and taking a lateral flow test before going out and mixing with others.”