More than 180,000 people in Caerphilly will remain in lockdown until October ‘at the very least’, Wales’s health minister said today.
People will not be allowed to enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse when the restrictions come into force at 6pm on Tuesday.
Everyone over the age of 11 will be required to wear face coverings in shops – the first time this will be mandatory in Wales.
Meetings with other people indoors and extended households will not be allowed, while overnight stays have also been banned.
The measures follow a spike in cases in Caerphilly county borough, where the Welsh Government says there have been 133 new Covid-19 cases over the past seven days.
This is equivalent to a rate of 55.4 cases per 100,000 – the highest rate in Wales and one of the highest in the UK.
The UK’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam yesterday warned people must take the virus very seriously again or Britain will face ‘a bumpy ride over the next few months’.
People will not be allowed to enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse after the restrictions come into force at 6pm on Tuesday (file photo)
Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire in the west of Scotland saw new restrictions imposed at midnight, with a similar clampdown for Caerphilly county in south Wales coming into force from 6pm
Health Minister Vaughan Gething told BBC Radio Wales the rate is ‘expected to rise’ after community testing on Saturday showed a positivity rate of 4 per cent.
He said: ‘Even a week ago, we comfortably had the lowest rate of coronavirus of any of the UK nations.
‘We’re now in a position, a week later, where we’ve seen a significant spike in activity.
‘That shows that coronavirus, over the course of a couple of weeks, can build up very quickly.
‘If we don’t address the issue in Caerphilly, we’ll see wider community transmission within the Caerphilly area, but that will spread to other areas as well.
‘The reasons for the local lockdown are a spike in transmission that, if left unaddressed, will go out of control.
‘We’ll see more people get it, we’ll see more people go into hospitals, being seriously unwell, and it will then have national consequences.’
Health Minister Vaughan Gething (pictured) told BBC Radio Wales the rate is ‘expected to rise’ after community testing in the area on Saturday showed a positivity rate of 4 per cent
Mr Gething said a ‘significant cause’ of the virus spreading was social distancing breaking down, with people socialising in each other’s households in larger numbers.
He told the BBC that pubs and bars would remain open in the Caerphilly area, as significant transmission is not taking place there.
The lockdown measures, which are being enforced by the local authority and police, will be reviewed every couple of weeks.
‘But the evidence and advice that I’ve had from our scientific and medical advisers is that we’re unlikely to see a significant change until two to three weeks, to see the impact these measures are having,’ Mr Gething said.
‘So we’re in it for several weeks, at least in Caerphilly.’
Asked if that meant the local lockdown would remain in the area until October, Mr Gething replied: ‘Yes, at the very least – I can’t overstate the seriousness of the position that we’re in.’
Community testing was introduced in Caerphilly over the weekend, with 450 people tested on Saturday. Of these, 19 had the virus.
A similar number of people were tested on Sunday, with results expected shortly.
Travel restrictions included in the lockdown mean people cannot enter or leave Caerphilly County Borough Council area without a ‘reasonable excuse’.
There have been 133 new Covid-19 cases in Caerphilly county borough over the past seven days, equivalent to a rate of 55.4 cases per 100,000 population
This includes work, if people are unable to work from home, as well as making a compassionate visit to a loved one or to provide care.
People will only be allowed to meet others outdoors, with indoor meetings and gatherings restricted.
Caerphilly Council has already introduced measures such as suspending care home visits, and introducing weekly testing for care home staff, in response to the increase in cases.
On Monday, Public Health Wales reported the highest number of positive Covid-19 cases in months.
It said that a further 133 people had tested positive for coronavirus, representing the highest daily figure since June 27, when 140 cases were reported.
There were no further deaths in people with coronavirus, with the total in Wales since the beginning of the pandemic remaining at 1,597.
Numerous schools have been affected by coronavirus since the start of the autumn term, including one class of 21 pupils at a primary school in the Caerphilly area being told to self-isolate for 14 days.
Professor Van-Tam said the public had ‘relaxed too much’ over the summer and described the rising number of cases as of ‘great concern’.
There were a further 2,948 lab-confirmed cases of the virus in the UK as of 9am on Monday, following the 2,988 reported on Sunday – the largest daily figure since May.
In an interview with journalists, Prof Van-Tam said: ‘This is a big change. It’s now consistent over two days and it’s of great concern at this point.
‘We’ve been able to relax a bit over the summer, the disease levels have been really quite low in the UK through the summer but these latest figures really show us that much as people might like to say ‘oh well it’s gone away’ – this hasn’t gone away.
‘And if we’re not careful, if we don’t take this incredibly seriously from this point in we’re going to have a bumpy ride over the next few months.’
He said that the rise is ‘much more marked’ in the 17-21 age group, but noted there is a ‘more general and creeping geographic trend’ across the UK.
‘People have relaxed too much,’ Prof Van-Tam said. ‘Now is the time for us to re-engage and realise that this is a continuing threat to us.’
He urged politicians and public health officials to think how to manage the crisis not in the short term but through ‘the next six months and how we get through this until the spring’.
The professor added it was ‘clear’ that the level of compliance with restrictions ‘is very variable indeed’.