Wales Health Minister says country 'seven weeks or fewer away from a nationwide lockdown'

14 September 2020, 14:59 | Updated: 14 September 2020, 15:08

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Welsh Health Minister has said that the country could be 'seven weeks or fewer away from a nationwide lockdown' as cases continue to rise.

Vaughan Gething warned that Wales is seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases, at a rate similar to the one back in February.

He said: "We could well be not just seven weeks away from a national lockdown but potentially much closer.

"If we see cases continue to rise, with the intelligence and information we have now, with the significant contact tracing that we have, then we may be in a position to make that decision and need to make that decision sooner than seven weeks."

It comes after First Minister Mark Drakeford warned that Covid-19 is "on the rise again" in Wales after weeks of being in decline, with 20 people in 100,000 in the country having the virus.

He previously new measures, which apply from Monday, were needed to prevent cases from spreading and to avoid more "draconian" restrictions.

The Welsh Health Minister said the country could face a nationwide lockdown
The Welsh Health Minister said the country could face a nationwide lockdown. Picture: PA

Mr Gething continued: "It does also show to the public that there is only a limited period of weeks for us to reconsider the choices we are making and to behave in a different way if we are to avoid more local lockdowns or a national lockdown.

"That includes people who are willingly breaking the rules. The rules will be enforced, and ultimately if people break the rules there will be consequences to that.

"I really hope people take that message on board, otherwise we may have to take measures that will affect all of us."

On Sunday, Public Health Wales reported "higher levels of transmission" in the Newport area.

People in the city who had visited a number of pubs and bars were told to be "extra vigilant" for symptoms of Covid-19.

This is because a number of people had been in the premises during their infectious period, it said.

Action is being taken in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf, which have each seen a rise in coronavirus cases, and a local lockdown was enforced in Caerphilly county borough last Tuesday.

There were a further 162 cases of Covid-19 in Wales on Sunday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in country to 19,390.

Of these new cases, 47 were in Rhondda Cynon Taf, 31 were in Caerphilly, 15 were in Newport and 14 were in Cardiff. There were four in Merthyr Tydfil.

From Monday, indoor meetings of more than six people from an extended household are illegal in Wales.

The rule, which does not count children under 11 as part of the six, applies in pubs and restaurants as well as in people's homes.

It does not apply to weddings, funerals or outside. Groups of up to 30 people can still meet in outdoor spaces.

Face coverings must be worn in public indoor spaces by everyone over the age of 11, apart from those with health or medical-related exemptions.

Those who break the law face fines of up to £1,920 for repeat offences.

People will be encouraged to work from home where possible to limit person-to-person contact, and local authorities will be given new powers to shut down premises and events on public health grounds.

On Thursday, a series of measures were introduced in Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil.

People there have been asked to only use public transport for essential reasons and to not visit care homes, unless for an end-of-life visit.

A temporary testing centre has been set up at Rhondda Cynon Taf's council officers for people living in the area.

Last Tuesday, a local lockdown was enforced in Caerphilly county borough to limit the spread of Covid-19 there.

A limit of six people for social gatherings will also come into force in England and Scotland on Monday.

There are some exemptions to the rules in both England and Scotland.