How one rural area of Wales set up its own system to control the spread of coronavirus

Ceredigion is one of Wales most rural areas. It was also the last to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

But, the extra time afforded to this coastal county allowed the local authority to take a unique approach to containing Covid-19 - and the results have been notable.

Ceredigion has so far only had seven deaths attributed to coronavirus. There have been more than a thousand across Wales in total.

One of the measures Ceredigion Council put in place from the beginning of lock down was a contact tracing system. They were the first to do so.

"Ten weeks ago now we put together a simple, simple model, and started to run contract tracing for any individual outbreaks", said Eifion Evans, Ceredigion County Council's Chief Executive.

"We had set up a team that was in contact with the two and a half thousand of our most vulnerable citizens on a very regular basis to make sure that everything that they needed and everything they required was there.

"If we as a council could not do it, then the voluntary sector would pick it up".

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There is now a 'Trace and Protect Strategy' across Wales, led by the Welsh Government. But that is a new intervention, that took months to develop and organise the thousands of people required to make it work.

Ceredigion Council managed to develop their own in a matter of weeks.

"In summary, when information on positive results about coronavirus reaches us, a member of our Public Protection team makes contact over the phone with the person who has tested positively in order to gather thorough information that includes identifying 'close links' to which they may have transmitted the virus", a council announcement explained.

"The information is collected and held securely on an online system which has been created specifically for the purpose of contact tracing. Contact is then made with close links to ensure that they are aware and are following tight guidelines for protecting themselves and their families and keeping them from spreading the virus further".

Aberystwyth is one of the county's largest population areas. Credit: PA Images

As Ceredigion locked down - universities and camp sites closed. That reduced the population of the county by 35,000 people within a week.

Care homes were instantly cocooned with installation of video links for relatives to keep in contact with loved ones.

"We actually closed all out doors slightly before lockdown to protect all our residents here", Rachel Jones told ITV News. She manages the Hafan Deg care home in Lampeter.

"It was a hard decision but we followed advice from the local authority. We have huge infection control protocols in place which are quite robust and we've had some additional training".

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Ceredigion Council was also one of the first authorities to hand out food parcels to shielding residents.

Keith Henson has been shielding. Credit: ITV News

Keith Henson from Aberporth suffers from diabetes and an immune deficiency. He was told to shield and is now working from home, but has relied on the support of the local authority and community.

"We've been shielding, we've been self-isolating, and that strategy has born fruit", Keith explained.

Ceredigion Council said they remain vigilant as they aim to keep Covid-19 infections and deaths low.

The council says its approach to contact tracing has already been shared with Anglesey Council and is in the process of being rolled out across Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire Councils in partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board.