Around 430,000 people in South Wales under lockdown after ‘worrying and rapid rise’ in Covid cases

Four more areas of Wales will be placed under a local lockdown, meaning a “large part” of the population of South Wales will be subjected to such restrictions.

The measures, which are already in force across Rhondda Cynon Taf and Caerphilly county borough, will apply in Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport and Blaenau Gwent from 6pm on Tuesday.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said there had been a “worrying and rapid rise” in cases of Covid-19 in the four new areas, which have a combined population of about 430,000 people.

Under the measures, people must not enter or leave the areas without a reasonable excuse and are only able to meet with other households outdoors, including members of their extended household.

All licensed premises such as pubs have to close at 11pm.

On Monday, Public Health Wales said a further 234 people had tested positive for coronavirus – the highest daily increase since April 22.

Mr Gething told a press conference in Cardiff that there had been a “worrying and rapid rise in cases” in the council areas of Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport and Blaenau Gwent.

“We are seeing evidence of coronavirus spreading. We need to take action to control and, ultimately, reduce its spread and protect people’s health,” Mr Gething said.

“It’s always a difficult decision to introduce restrictions but coronavirus has not gone away – it is still circulating in communities across Wales and, as we are seeing in parts of South Wales, small clusters can quickly cause real issues in local communities.”

Mr Gething said the restrictions would affect a “large part” of the population of South Wales, and the South Wales valleys.

On Tuesday, the Welsh Government will call an urgent meeting of all local authority, health board and police forces from Bridgend to the English border.

This will discuss whether further measures are required across South Wales, Mr Gething said.

Cases in Merthyr Tydfil appear to be focused around two clusters, linked to a large employer and the other to a pub, with two smaller clusters also identified.

The number of positive cases of Covid-19 in Rhondda Cynon Taf, which went into local lockdown last Thursday, has continued to rise.

“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,” Mr Gething said.

He said the area of Bridgend was a “growing concern”, with the pattern of infection similar to that seen in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Infections in Blaenau Gwent have been linked to pubs and a lack of social distancing but there have been cases of Covid-19 in care home staff and secondary schools.

Newport’s rise in cases appeared to begin from a house party at the end of August that was then linked to pubs, though there is now a “wide spread” across the city, Mr Gething said.

He described the measures in the six areas as “a more targeted form of intervention” than a Wales-wide lockdown.

“We may though reach a point where the spread continues, where we need to take wider action across a region of Wales or indeed across the country,” Mr Gething said.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a call with First Minister Mark Drakeford.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The First Minister updated the Prime Minister about the measures the Welsh Government is taking in Wales to control an increase in cases of coronavirus and protect people’s health in parts of South Wales.

“They agreed on the need to work on a four-nation basis to discuss UK-wide measures where these were necessary.”

A Downing Street spokeswoman said Mr Johnson had also spoken with the First Minister of Scotland and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

“During these calls, the Prime Minister made clear that the rising infection rates are a cause for great concern, which he is taking very seriously,” she said.

“He reiterated his unwavering commitment to working with the devolved administrations as we continue to tackle the virus.”

Mr Drakeford, along with the First Minister of Scotland and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, has been invited to a Cobra meeting on Tuesday.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Wales since the beginning of the pandemic is now 20,878.

There were no further deaths reported on Monday, with the total in the country remaining at 1,603.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Ben Birchall / PA Wire.