Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Council, police and health chiefs have issued a joint statement expressing “extreme concern” over the sharply increasing number of coronavirus cases in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.
They warned the region is facing a record high number of cases, in what could soon be “the worst period of the pandemic”.
The leaders of Cardiff council and the Vale of Glamorgan council, as well as bosses from South Wales Police and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board described a bleak emergency situation as hospital staff are “pushed to the limit”.
Cardiff and the Vale has now seen almost 16,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19; while 11 people are now in intensive care, and 278 medical and nursing staff are currently self-isolating and unable to work.
The police warned “a large number of officers” are also unable to work and self-isolating, as shifts often involve breaking up illegal gatherings.
Fiona Kinghorn, the health board’s executive director of public health, said it was “alarming” to see cases rise so quickly over the past week and called for urgent action from the public.
She said: “We’re very concerned our primary care and hospital services are now under sustained pressure due to Covid, and sadly the number of people who are getting very unwell is increasing.
“Unfortunately we’re likely to see that translate through into more deaths, too.
“While we do have a vaccine we have started to roll out, this is a nine to 12 month programme and will take some time, so now is not the time for us to be complacent.
“Please try and stay at home, please do not mix with other households unnecessarily, work from home if you are able, and if it is essential to go out please do so in quieter periods. These small steps can really help us all to keep our communities safe.”
Chief superintendent Andy Valentine is leading the response to Covid-19 for South Wales Police. He called for people to help slow the spread of the virus, lowering the risk to police officers and other frontline workers.
He said: “We have planned extensively for this situation and we have had a dedicated command structure in place throughout both waves of the pandemic to ensure we continue to keep our communities safe.
“We have confidence in our tried and tested plans to ensure continuity of policing during times of capacity issues or increased demand, including redeployment of officers, to ensure we can respond to emergencies and continue protecting those who need us most.”
As well as keeping two metres apart, washing hands regularly and wearing a face covering; people can help reduce the spread by avoiding car sharing, shopping for Christmas presents alone, avoiding socialising in other people’s homes, and working from home when possible.
Vale council leader Neil Moore said the rising infection rates in the region were frightening and warned “we are heading for the worst period of the pandemic”.
He said: “The police and local authorities are being stretched by the number of Covid breaches they are having to deal with, while hospitals are once again under extreme pressure due to the sheer volume of patients.
“The professionals working in these organisations continue to selflessly put themselves in harm’s way during the course of their work. The risk they face could be greatly reduced if people followed the rules and adhered to guidance more closely. That absolutely can make a real difference and it is everyone’s responsibility to do so.
“Every rule violation makes the situation worse no matter how small it may seem, so in the strongest possible terms, I would urge everyone to stick closely to the restrictions, take their responsibilities seriously and stay safe.”
Cardiff council leader Huw Thomas warned of the “deadly serious” situation and said without a change in behaviour, many more could die before the vaccine is rolled out.
He said: “If current projections are realised, then by Christmas the high prevalence of the disease in the community would lead to a massive level of transmission within families and inevitably the loss of many lives. Lives that don’t have to be lost.
“Each and every one of us has a responsibility to act now, and not only by just adhering to the Welsh Government coronavirus regulations, but by taking further steps to protect those whom we plan to see at Christmas – our cherished loved ones.
“We know many people think that the vaccine is here so everything is going to be OK. That’s simply not the case. Many people could die before the vaccine is rolled out if we don’t change our behaviour now, people who don’t need to die. Members of your families.
“With our colleagues in the Cardiff & Vale University Health Board, Public Health Wales, and South Wales Police, we are fully mobilised in this fight against Covid-19. But it remains a huge challenge, one that we will best meet if we meet it together, just as we did in the spring.
“I’m asking every one of you to meet that challenge together. Let’s stop the spread, and let’s keep Cardiff, the NHS and our loved ones safe.”