New lockdown restrictions come into force for people living in Rhondda Cynon Taf

Lockdown restrictions are now in place for people living in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

The area is the second county in Wales to be placed into local lockdown, following a "rapid" increase in virus cases.

The Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the incident rate in Rhondda Cynon Taf is now 82.1 per 100,000 people, and that Tuesday's positive test rate was 4.3% – the highest in Wales.

As of 18:00 on Thursday, the following restrictions are in force for people living in the county:

  • People will not be allowed to enter or leave the Rhondda Cynon Taf Council area without a "reasonable excuse", such as travel for work or education.

  • People will only be able to meet outdoors for the time being. People will not be able to meet members of their extended household indoors or form an extended household.

  • All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm.

  • Everyone over 11 must wear face coverings in indoor public places – as is now the case throughout Wales.

The health minister said the incident rate in RCT is now 82.1 per 100,000 people. Credit: ITV Wales

Mr Gething made the announcement during Wednesday's coronavirus press briefing.

He said the cases are mainly linked to people socialising without social distancing and meeting up in each other’s homes.

There have been cases associated with a rugby club and a pub, he said.

Some cases have also been linked to people returning from summer holidays overseas.

The measures will be formally reviewed in two weeks’ time, Mr Gething added.

Similar lockdown measures were introduced in Caerphilly County last week.

Caerphilly became the first county in Wales to be placed into local lockdown last week Credit: PA

Last week, residents of Rhondda Cynon Taf were asked by the local authority to undertake voluntary measures in an attempt to control the spread of the virus.

But cases have continued to rise in the area, and Mr Gething said there is now also evidence of community transmission.

The health minister said there are a "number of clusters" in Rhondda Cynon Taf – two of which he described as "significant".

Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru member of the Senedd for the Rhondda, said the new restrictions were "disappointing but not a surprise".

"This was something we feared would happen due to the increase in transmission rates," she said.

"I urge everyone to follow the guidance on social distancing, washing hands and only meeting other households outdoors.

"Wearing face masks inside shops is also essential. I also urge everyone who is contacted by Track and Trace to co-operate fully so we can shut this virus down.

"The sooner we get this under control, the sooner we can ease restrictions and the safer our loved ones will be."

  • Watch: Leader of RCT Council, Cllr Andrew Morgan, explains why the county is being placed into local lockdown

Andrew RT Davies, shadow health minister for the Welsh Conservatives, said any local lockdown should be "for as short a time as possible".

"Every effort must be made to avoid a similar situation occurring in other parts of Wales, which includes by learning from these two local lockdowns, and I see that there are some differences between them," he said.

"In RCT, licensed premises have to close by 11pm, but this wasn't imposed in Caerphilly.

"The health minister must explain the rationale behind this and give guidance across Wales to prevent other lockdowns."

  • Watch: Health Minister Vaughan Gething announces a local lockdown in Rhondda Cynon Taf

On Thursday, there were 168 further cases of Covid-19 across Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 20,048.

There were also three new deaths reported - the first in Wales this month - bringing the total to 1,600.

In regards to Caerphilly, which entered local lockdown last week, the health minister said there were now "grounds for cautious optimism".

He said there had been a "small fall" in both the seven-day rate of new cases and the positivity rate in the Caerphilly area, although both still remain high.

He said police in Caerphilly had also reported very high levels of compliance with the restrictions.

"I want to thank everyone living in the area for their help over the last week and for the support we’ve seen from public services in Caerphilly borough", Mr Gething said.

"It’s only by working together that we will be able to reduce coronavirus, protect ourselves and our loved ones and keep Wales safe."