People prepare for Wales’ first local lockdown

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The council and the police are expected to enforce the new restrictions

People are preparing for restrictions to their daily lives as Caerphilly county becomes the first part of Wales to be placed under local lockdown.

From 18:00 BST on Tuesday no-one will be allowed to leave or enter the area, without good reason.

Family and friends living apart will no longer be able to meet indoors, or stay overnight, with extended households banned in the area.

It comes after a spike in cases, with 98 people testing positive in a week.

The Welsh Government said that with 55.4 coronavirus cases per 100,000 population, Caerphilly county had the highest rate in Wales and one of the highest in the UK.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said he had been forced to act due to the increase in cases, after “social distancing had broken down in large parts”.

“We have seen a significant rise in cases in Caerphilly borough over a very short space of time, which are linked to holiday travel abroad and people socialising indoors and not following social distancing guidelines,” he said.

“A lot of these cases are in younger people and thankfully, at the moment, most of these are mild.”

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People will not be able to enter or leave Caerphilly county without good reason

What does the local lockdown mean?

The local lockdown was announced by the Welsh Government after 18:00 on Monday, giving people less than 24 hours to prepare for the changes.

Under the restrictions:

  • You cannot enter or leave Caerphilly county borough – which includes Caerphilly town, Ystrad Mynach, Blackwood, Newbridge and Risca – without a “reasonable excuse”
  • Everyone over the age of 11 will need to wear a face covering in shops
  • Friends and family are not allowed to meet indoors or stay overnight
  • Extended households will not be able to meet up

A reasonable excuse for travel includes for work, if you are not able to work from home, or for making a compassionate visit, or to give care.

But schools, pubs, bars and restaurants will remain open under the measures.

More details are expected to be published by the Welsh Government on Tuesday.

It says the rules will be kept under review and be enforced by the council and police.

In less than an hour over 600 people messaged Caerphilly Member of the Senedd Hefin David, asking for clarity on what the lockdown meant after it was announced on Monday.

People were concerned about whether gyms and leisure centres would be open, whether students could move to university halls of residence, and what it would mean for hairdressers and beauty salons.

“I am just trying to answer as many people’s questions as I can,” he told BBC Wales, adding that students would be fine to go off to university as it was classed as moving out of the borough.

“The biggest questions are about childcare”.

Mr David said he did not want to blame anyone for the increase in cases, as it was “human instinct” to want to socialise with other people.

He said many people had abided by the social-distancing rules in the area.

“We need to get back to how we were in the last six months,” he said.

‘Anxiety for small businesses’

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More than 1,600 people have been tested in Caerphilly county in the past week

As people reacted to the lockdown announcement, concerns were raised about the impact on shops in the area.

Ben Francis, of the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales, called for clarity. “Welsh Government must act quickly to clarify a number of points for businesses in Caerphilly, many of whom will be feeling very anxious… about what this means for them,” he said. “It is important to remember that many businesses in Caerphilly reopened under a month ago and are still suffering the financial impact of the prolonged closure.

“The Welsh Government and Caerphilly County Borough Council must be prepared to take all necessary steps to guide and support businesses through this latest period of disruption and uncertainty.”

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Some bars and pubs have only been open for a few weeks

Community testing started in the county borough at the weekend. A total of 450 people were tested and 19 were found positive.

The positivity rate of 4% indicated that the virus was circulating in the community, the Welsh Government said.

One class at St Gwladys Primary School in Bargoed must stay at home, although the school remains open.

On Monday, as the measures were announced, Mr Gething told BBC Wales: “There’s been a sustained rise in cases and we’ve been able to trace that back to activity that has largely taken place in people’s homes.”

He said he knew people would be disappointed but the Welsh Government had to act after “the sustained rise in cases”.

Mr Gething said there had not been an increase in the number of people seeking medical attention but he said “it would take two or three weeks to see that sort of impact”.

Giri Shankar, of Public Health Wales, appealed to everyone in the Caerphilly area to use a local testing unit at the town’s leisure centre if they were experiencing “even the mildest” of symptoms or feeling “generally unwell with no explanation”.

Coronavirus cases in Caerphilly

New positive tests by day

How many cases have there been in Caerphilly?

Caerphilly county has had more new cases in the past week – 98 – than anywhere else in Wales and more than the area has seen since the end of April.

The number of cases on Friday – 31 – was the highest in the county for a single day since the pandemic began.

The case rate for the past seven days – 54.1 cases per 100,000 people – is also one of the biggest increases in the UK, after Bolton and Rossendale in Lancashire and Hertsmere in south-east England.

Where there have been local interventions or lockdowns so far – mostly in north-west England and the Midlands – the case rate has been usually been between 70 and 90 cases per 100,000.

Birmingham was put on a “watch list” when it reached 31 cases per 100,000 but the issues were in particular neighbourhoods.

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