Local lockdown to be enforced in Rhondda Cynon Taf area of south Wales

A local lockdown will be enforced in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area of south Wales following a “rapid rise” in Covid-19 cases, the Welsh Government has confirmed.

Under the new restrictions, which come into force at 6pm on Thursday, people must not enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse.

Meetings with other people indoors will not be allowed, including for extended households.

All licensed pubs, bars and restaurants in the area, which has a population of around 240,000, will have to close at 11pm.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said the lockdown followed two “significant” clusters of Covid-19 cases in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area.

One was associated with a rugby club and a pub, while the other was linked to a group of people in their 40s and 50s who took a coach trip to Doncaster races, Mr Gething said.

However, Doncaster Racecourse said it had not been contacted by the NHS or the Welsh Government and did not have any ticket booking for any groups from the south Wales area.

Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK (PA Graphics)
Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK (PA Graphics)

And the Welsh Government later said the group had not entered the racecourse as originally planned.

A statement from the British Horseracing Authority said: “The British Horseracing Authority has been told by Public Health Wales tonight that a coach party from south Wales – now part of a Covid lockdown area in the Rhondda Cynon Taff – did not visit Doncaster Racecourse as reported.”

Mr Gething said the seven-day new case rate in Rhondda Cynon Taf was now 82.1 per 100,000 people in the area, while the testing positivity rate on Tuesday was 4.3% – the highest in Wales.

“Our contact tracing teams have been about to trace about half of these cases back to a series of clusters within the borough,” Mr Gething said.

“The rest are evidence of community transmission.”

Vaughan Gething (Isabel Infantes/PA)
Vaughan Gething (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Mr Gething said that meant “urgent action” had to be taken to control and reduce the spread of Covid-19 and protect people’s health.

Rhondda Cynon Taf has seen a “rapid increase in cases” over a short period of time, Mr Gething said.

He told a press conference in Cardiff that these were mainly linked to people socialising without physical distancing, and meeting in each other’s homes.

Some cases in the borough have also been seen in people who have returned from summer holidays abroad.

Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council has served improvement notices to seven supermarkets in the area, as well as a bar and a barbers in Tonypandy.

A bar in Pontypridd and a licensed premises in Tonypandy were closed, Mr Gething said.

Further visits to 50 licensed premises last weekend are likely to result in further improvement notices and closures.

Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru member of the Senedd for the Rhondda, said the new restrictions in Rhondda Cynon Taf were “disappointing but not a surprise”.

“This was something we feared would happen due to the increase in transmission rates,” she said.

There is reported to be cautious optimism in Caerphilly (Ben Birchall/PA)
There is reported to be cautious optimism in Caerphilly (Ben Birchall/PA)

Andrew RT Davies, shadow health minister for the Welsh Conservatives, said any local lockdown should be “for as short a time as possible”.

There is “cautious optimism” in Caerphilly county borough, where a local lockdown was enforced last Tuesday, Mr Gething told the Welsh Parliament.

“We have seen a small fall in both the seven-day rate of new cases and the positivity rate, although these do remain high,” Mr Gething told members of the Senedd.

“The police have reported very high levels of compliance with the restrictions.”

On Wednesday, there were 199 further cases of Covid-19 across Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 19,880.

Of these new cases, 52 were in Rhondda Cynon Taf, 36 in Caerphilly, 15 in Newport and 14 in Cardiff.

Public Health Wales said no further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remaining at 1,597.