THE number of coronavirus patients currently in Gwent's hospitals is higher than at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic.

A leading doctor from Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said the Covid-19 situation was growing increasingly grave amid forecasts patient numbers would continue to rise "for several weeks to come".

"There is a limited number of beds that we can safely open with the staff that we have, who are increasingly tired and increasingly distressed by the serious cases of Covid-19 that they are witnessing," Dr Sarah Aitken said on Tuesday, appealing to the public to keep themselves and their loved ones safe over the Christmas period.

Nationally, there is growing uncertainty over UK-wide plans to relax restrictions for five days over Christmas, allowing families to see each other.

Government leaders from the four nations began talks on the matter on Tuesday, amid rapidly accelerating infection rates in Wales and several other parts of the UK.

Dr Aitken, the health board's interim medical director, urged people not to take risks and go beyond the public health measures already in place.

"Please help us to help you, by following the guidance and staying safe over the Christmas period, both for yourself, your family, and your friends," she said, warning of "a difficult few weeks ahead of us at the NHS".

She said Gwent's hospitals were caring for more than 400 coronavirus patients on the past weekend, among more than 1,400 patients altogether.

This was more than 100 more coronavirus patients, and more than 500 patients altogether, than Aneurin Bevan University Health Board was treating in hospital "at the peak of the first wave in the spring," she added.

Her appeal follows repeated messages by both the health board and the Welsh Ambulance Service that current demand is exceptionally high for hospital services.


On Tuesday evening the health board said its hospitals remained under "extreme pressure".

"If you do think you need hospital care, please phone first and phone 111, who will advise you on the best place to attend for the help that you need," Dr Atiken said, adding a message of thanks to the public.

"Thank you for your continued support," she said. "It helps our morale and it makes a difference."