Four more areas of Wales going into local lockdown

21 September 2020, 12:35 | Updated: 21 September 2020, 13:03

People wear masks on the high street in Merthyr Tydfil
People wear masks on the high street in Merthyr Tydfil. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Four more areas of south Wales are set to go into local lockdown from 6pm on Tuesday as the number of coronavirus cases in the area continues to rise.

Newport, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent will all face added restrictions, with nearby Rhondda Cynon Taf and Caerphilly having already had a lockdown imposed.

The restrictions mean people will not be allowed to enter or leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education.

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It also means residents will only be able to meet outdoors, and will not be able to meet members of their extended household indoors or form an extended household for the time being.

All licensed premises in these areas will have to close at 11pm.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “Following the decision to place additional coronavirus restrictions in place in Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf, we have seen a worrying and rapid rise in cases in four other south Wales council areas – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport.

“In many cases, this is linked to people socialising indoors without social distancing. We are seeing evidence of coronavirus spreading. We need to take action to control and, ultimately, reduce its spread and protect people’s health.

“It’s always a difficult decision to introduce restrictions but coronavirus has not gone away – it is still circulating in communities across Wales and, as we are seeing in parts of South Wales, small clusters can quickly cause real issues in local communities.

“We need everyone’s help to bring coronavirus under control. We need everyone to pull together and to follow the measures which are there to protect you and your loved ones.”

Mr Gething said that in Merthyr Tydfil, the incidence rate is high but the cases appear to be mainly focused around two distinct clusters, linked to a large employer and a pub. Two new, smaller clusters have also been identified.

The number of positive cases and the incidence rate have both increased in Rhondda Cynon Taf, where local restrictions were introduced on Thursday, and it is now the highest in Wales.

Mr Gething said there are "many small clusters throughout the local authority area, which, because of a lack of social distancing, have led to community transmission."

He added: "Initially, most cases were in younger age groups, but we are now seeing infections in all age groups.

"And, particularly worrying, we have 34 cases of coronavirus in people in the Royal Glamorgan Hospital."

He also said Bridgend is a "growing concern for us because there has been a sharp rise in cases in a short space of time."

Mr Gething said: "We have identified a small number of clusters in the borough, but we are worried the pattern is similar to what we have seen in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Mobile testing will be introduced in Bridgend this week."

In Blaenau Gwent, cases have been linked to pubs and a lack of social distancing, but there have also been cases in care home staff and in secondary schools in the area.

He said that in Newport, the rise in cases appeared to start with a house party at the end of August and was subsequently linked to a number of pubs.

But he added: "We are now seeing a wide spread of cases across the city, which are not linked to a particular cluster or showing links with existing cases."

Andrew RT Davies MS, shadow health minister for the Welsh Conservatives, called for a resumption of shielding in elderly and vulnerable people following the announcement.

"Ministers and governments must do everything possible to avoid another blanket national lockdown, as the other public health and economic impacts would be disastrous," Mr Davies said.

"We need to see smart, hyper-local lockdowns based on accurate and detailed data, and a resumption of shielding of the elderly and vulnerable."