WALES has passed the peak of the omicron wave of covid, according to first minister Mark Drakeford.

Speaking at a Welsh Government covid press conference, Mr Drakeford revealed that the picture is looking good in terms of the most recent wave of the potentially deadly virus.

This message comes as the rate of infection is on the decline, and hospitalisation rates in Wales are slowing.

And, with the public health picture in Wales changing for the better, a number of restrictions are set to ease later this week.

What’s more, further restrictions, including wearing face coverings in public, and the use of covid passes, are set to be reviewed over the coming weeks.

But, while the picture is certainly looking better today than in recent weeks, the first minister warned that the overall threat of covid is not at an end.

What has been said about the public health situation?

Speaking at a Welsh Government public health press conference earlier today (Friday, January 21), first minister Mark Drakeford said: “After many difficult and worrying weeks, I’m very pleased to tell you the situation has improved significantly.

“We can say confidently today that we have passed this peak of the Omicron wave and the incredibly high levels of infections we have seen across Wales.

“It is all your hard work and the ongoing success of our fantastic vaccination programme has helped us through this very challenging period."

But, on a local level, Newport continues to have the highest covid case rate in Wales, with 106.7 new cases per 100,000 people - well above the Welsh average of 74.8, according to the latest Public Health Wales data.

The next closest in Wales is Swansea with a rate of 99.6.

In Gwent, only Torfaen has a lower case rate than the Welsh average with 58.5.

Despite the high case rate, Newport does not have the most amount of new cases in Gwent.

Caerphilly has 177 new cases, while Newport has 165.

How did we get here?

Late last year, the omicron variant of covid was discovered by scientists in South Africa.

And, while travel restrictions and quarantine rules were reintroduced, the new strain soon found its way to the UK, and shortly thereafter, to Wales.

It was soon discovered that the new strain was more transmissible than previous strains, and there was fear that a spike in covid cases during winter time could tip the already struggling NHS over the edge.

To stop this, additional lockdown restrictions were introduced, including moving live sporting events back behind closed doors, closing nightclubs, and reintroducing the two-metre rule.

But perhaps the biggest impact that the omicron variant had was the major rethink of the vaccine programme that it caused.

To keep the public safe, the booster vaccine programme was expanded to everyone, and the timeline was rapidly moved up, to ensure that every eligible person was offered the additional vaccine dose.