Lockdown in Caerphilly area should serve as ‘wake-up call’, health minister says

The local lockdown in the county borough of Caerphilly should serve as a “wake-up call for everybody,” Wales’s health minister has said.

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

Meetings with other people indoors will not be allowed, along with overnight stays and extended households.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said the area’s case rate had risen to 72.9 cases per 100,000 people, the highest rate in Wales and one of the highest in the UK.

He told the Welsh Government’s weekly coronavirus briefing that the majority of the positive cases were linked to people socialising without physical distancing, and those returning from holidays abroad.

“The fact that Caerphilly has been singled out, with the highest rate within Wales and the second highest rate I understand right across the UK of coronavirus infection, should be a real wake-up call for everybody,” Mr Gething said.

“People who thought coronavirus was no longer a threat should sit up and take notice.

“I do not want to see a second wave returning.

“I do not want to return to this press conference each week and have to explain the numbers of infection rates, the numbers of people in hospital, and the numbers of people who are losing their lives.

“That is what is at stake.

“That is why we’ve introduced these new restrictions.”

He warned similar local lockdowns could be introduced in other parts of Wales if the “same pattern of events” seen in Caerphilly was replicated.

Mr Gething told the press conference that pubs and bars in the Caerphilly area would remain open, as there was no “evidence base” to suggest transmission was taking place there.

People in the county borough will only be able to share a table with members of their household and should socially distance from others.

“If those rules aren’t followed then we can, of course, consider taking further action,” Mr Gething said.

The new restrictions in Caerphilly require everyone over the age of 11 to wear a face covering in shops, the first time this has been mandatory in Wales.

But Mr Gething said he did not want to introduce such a measure in other parts of the country, adding that face coverings were not “a silver bullet on their own”.

“We’ve seen a sustained fall over the summer of transmission rates in Wales,” he said.

“A few weeks ago, Wales was comfortably the country within the UK with the lowest rates of transmission.

“We did that without mandatory face coverings within shops.

“Caerphilly is in a different position because of the heightened levels of coronavirus, that’s why mandated face covering are coming in in that part of Wales.

“I don’t want to introduce additional mandatory measures or lockdown measures in other parts of the country.

“If it’s necessary though, I won’t hesitate to do so.”

HEALTH Coronavirus Wales
(PA Graphics)

People in the Caerphilly area who were previously shielding are not being advised to do so again but they should be “particularly careful”, the health minister said.

The Welsh Government has said the local lockdown restrictions will be reviewed in two weeks, though Mr Gething warned cases could continue to increase within that period.

When asked on BBC Radio Wales if that meant the measures would remain until October, he replied: “Yes, at the very least, I can’t understate 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 Covid-19.

A further 488 tests were carried out on Sunday, and a similar number on Monday.

Results from those tests are expected soon.

Coronavirus – Mon Sep 7, 2020
A long queue of cars is directed by a marshall before accessing the walk-in coronavirus testing centre at Caerphilly Leisure Centre (Ben Birchall/PA)

On Tuesday, Public Health Wales reported the highest number of positive Covid-19 cases in months.

It said that a further 150 people had tested positive for coronavirus, representing the highest daily figure since May 20.

There were no further deaths in people with coronavirus, with the total in Wales since the beginning of the pandemic remaining at 1,597.

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