Newport, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent will all be put in lockdown, Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething has announced.
They will go into lockdown from 6pm on Tuesday. People will not be able to enter or leave the areas concerned without a reasonable excuse, including to work if you cannot do so from home.
It means that over a quarter of Wales’ population is now under local lockdown – 850,000 of 3.2m people.
He added however that a national lockdown across Wales was “not imminent” but that his advice on what people should do was just as applicable to the south-west, mid and north of Wales.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Andrew Rt Davies, said that a national lockdown should be avoided.
“Ministers and governments must do everything possible to avoid another blanket national lockdown,” he said. “Other health and economic impacts disastrous.
“Smart, hyper-local lockdowns based on accurate data. Aggressive shielding of the elderly and vulnerable. Keep pressing home hands, face, space.”
“Today I want to update you about the latest position in the areas in south Wales where we are most concerned about the spread of coronavirus,” Vaughan Gething said.
“We have already introduced local restrictions in Caerphilly borough and Rhondda Cynon Taf to help control a rapid and sharp increase in coronavirus cases in these two areas.
“The number of areas on our watch list has grown.
“The seven-day new case rate is now higher than the all-Wales rate in Bridgend and Blaenau Gwent.
“And we have continued to see an increase in cases in Merthyr Tydfil and Newport despite the measures introduced by the local authorities in those areas in the past 10 days.
“Because of the developing situation in these four local authority areas we will be introducing local restrictions in all four of these local authority areas from 6pm tomorrow evening.
“This will mean a large part of the population of south Wales – and the South Wales Valleys – will be subject to local coronavirus restrictions.
“We will hold an urgent meeting tomorrow with all local authorities, health boards, and police forces in south Wales – from Bridgend to the border with England – to discuss the wider regional situation and whether further measures are needed.
“Before I turn to the restrictions I want to say a few words about the nature of the cases in each of these areas.
“In Merthyr Tydfil the incidence rate is high but the cases appear to be mainly focused around two distinct clusters, one linked to a large employer and a pub.
“There are two new smaller clusters that have also been identified.
“In Rhondda Cynon Taf, where local restrictions were introduced on Thursday, we have continued to see both the number of positive cases and the incidence rate rise – it is now the highest in Wales.
“We are seeing many small clusters throughout the local authority area which, because of a lack of social distancing, have led to community transmission.
“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.
“Bridgend is a growing concern for us because there has been a sharp rise in cases in a short space of time. We have identified a small number of clusters in the borough. But we are worried the pattern is similar to the one that we have seen in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
“Mobile testing will be introduced in Bridgend this week.
“In Blaenau Gwent, we have seen cases 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.
“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 we are now seeing a widespread of cases across the city, which are not linked to a particular cluster or showing links with existing cases.”
It was revealed earlier today that Boris Johnson will hold a conference call with the First Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland later.
The devolved administrations will also take part in a Cobra meeting tomorrow. This is the first Cobra meeting since May.
It comes as England’s chief scientific adviser warned that the UK could see 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October without further action.
“At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days,” he said.
“If, and that’s quite a big if, but if that continues unabated, and this grows doubling every seven days… if that continued you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day.
“50,000 cases per day would be expected to lead a month later, so the middle of November say, to 200-plus deaths per day.
“The challenge, therefore, is to make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days.
“That requires speed, it requires action and it requires enough in order to be able to bring that down.”
England’s Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty also said that even though different parts of the UK were seeing cases rising at different rates, and even though some age groups are affected more than others, the evolving situation “is all of our problem”.
“What we’ve seen in other countries, and are now clearly seeing here, is that they’re not staying just in the younger age groups, and moving up the age bands and the mortality rates will be similar to – slightly lower than they were previously – but they will be similar to what we saw previously.”
More to follow…