Caerphilly enters local lockdown as stricter rules enforced to control spread of coronavirus
Caerphilly has entered a local lockdown which is expected to last until "at least October" in an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus cases in the area.
Residents living in the county have to adhere to stricter guidance following the announcement of a lockdown from 6pm on Tuesday.
The measures follow a spike in cases of Covid-19. The Welsh Government say this is linked to "clusters of people meeting indoors, not following social distancing guidelines and summer holidays overseas."
There have been 98 cases in the county in just one week. Health minister Vaugan Gething said the incidence rate has increased to 72.9 cases per 100,000 of the population. This is one of the highest rates in the UK.
He told ITV Wales, "If we don't take action now, we'll see further community spread, more people being infected with coronavirus and that is more likely to lead to people in the greatest risk of harm being infected."
A range of new measures have come into force in a bid to reduce the number of new coronavirus infections.
People will not be allowed to enter or leave the Caerphilly County Borough Council area without a reasonable excuse;
Everyone over 11 will be required to wear face coverings in shops;
People will only be able to meet outdoors – meetings with other people indoors and extended households will not be allowed for the time being. No overnight stays will be allowed.
The rules will be enforced by local authority environmental health officers and the police, who can issue fines or recommend prosecution in a magistrates' court.
Fixed penalty notices of £60 can be issued for most types of breaches of the regulations. This fine increases to £120 for a second offence and continues to double for repeated offences, up to a maximum of £1,920.
A pop-up community testing centre was introduced in Caerphilly at the weekend, with another testing facility opening today in Ystrad Mynach.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board SAID the testing centres are currently "extremely busy" and that only people with symptoms and those who live in Caerphilly should attend.
On Saturday, the Welsh Government said 450 people were tested and 19 were positive – a positivity rate of 4%. It said that indicated the virus is "circulating in the community."
It comes after 21 pupils at a primary school in Bargoed had to self-isolate after a member of staff tested positive for coronavirus.
Vaughan Gething also said many of the cases have been linked to younger people, and the spike in cases shows how transmission can spread "very quickly."
He told a press conference, "We are introducing these specific measures to help target the most common roots of transmission and to help break the cycle of infection we are seeing in the area.
He urged everyone in the area to "pull together" and "follow the steps."
"Due to the nature of the virus and the length of time it takes for symptoms to develop, we could see cases continuing to increase for up to two weeks yet.
“We need the help of everyone in Caerphilly borough to prevent the increasing and onward spread of coronavirus. We can only bring this local outbreak under control if everyone pulls together and follows these new steps."
He also responded to criticism about why the decision was made to keep pubs and restaurants open during the lockdown.
"Pubs, restaurants and others can stay open but it's for individual households only to be using those pubs now in a single group. It's really important that people follow the rules.
"At the moment, pubs aren't a factor in transmission. What I don't want to do is see them become a real factor and potentially have to close them because there's real economic harm to be done there."
Public Health Wales said the decision to impose the restrictions was "not taken lightly".
“Coronavirus can be a very serious illness, especially for older people or those with existing conditions, and a decision to introduce wide ranging restrictions such as these is not taken lightly.
"We remind the public that they have a vital role in preventing the spread of Coronavirus, and that adhering to these restrictions is of the utmost importance", Dr Giri Shankar from PHW said.
On Tuesday, Public Health Wales confirmed coronavirus cases had again reached its highest number since late June with 150 - beating Monday's 10-week high of 133 cases.
Public Health Wales said most of these cases are due "to a lack of social distancing".