A health board has warned that the situation in its hospitals is “extremely serious”, with the highest number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units since the first wave of the pandemic.

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said the number of Covid-19 patients requiring hospital treatment had “risen substantially in the past few weeks”, with figures in recent days reaching their highest in months.

The health board covers the areas of Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf, which have some of the highest rates of coronavirus in Wales.

Bridgend’s rolling seven-day rate from December 18 to 24 was 949.3 cases per 100,000 people, while this figure was 895.1 for Merthyr Tydfil and 661.1 in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

The all-Wales rate for this period was 495.2 per 100,000 people.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said: “As of yesterday, we had 559 suspected, confirmed or recovering Covid-19 patients in our hospitals.

“The number of confirmed Covid-19 patients in ITUs across our sites was at its highest since the first peak of the pandemic. The situation is extremely serious.”

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said many staff had given up their leave over Christmas and volunteered to support their colleagues.

This, along with the health board’s recent decision to stand down non-urgent services, means it is “currently able to staff out departments”.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

“However, with rising numbers of both Covid and non-Covid patients needing care and treatment, combined with high levels of staff sickness, this is becoming increasingly challenging,” the health board said.

“We would like to pay tribute to our staff who are working incredibly hard to care for our patients as we face this unprecedented demand for our emergency services.”

The health board asked anyone with a relative who is ready to be safely discharged from hospital to “help get them home as quickly as possible”.

This will allow them to continue their recovery in the comfort of their own surroundings and help the hospitals with capacity, it said.

People are also asked to only call 999 or attend an emergency department for life-threatening symptoms.

“Finally, we urge everyone to play their part and do everything they can to stop the spread of Covid-19 in our communities,” the health board said.

“Due to the alarming rates of the virus, Wales is now under Alert Level 4 restrictions. To save lives we need everyone to follow the rules – don’t mix with others and don’t put yourself or your loved ones at risk.”

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said it was also experiencing challenges related to staff availability.

Steve Curry, chief operating officer at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said its escalation level had reduced following a “challenging weekend”.

“We continue to experience ongoing operational pressures due to winter demand and Covid-19,” he said.

“The health board has capacity surge plans in place but these will be dependent on staff availability which continues to be a challenge, partly due to Covid-19-related absence.”

Over the past 48 hours, the health board has successfully opened its Lakeside Wing surge facility at University Hospital of Wales, Mr Curry added.

On Tuesday, Public Health Wales reported a further 2,510 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 144,425.

Another 33 deaths were reported, bringing the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 3,416.