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About a quarter of the Welsh population will be subject to local lockdowns after sharp rises in Covid-19 cases triggered restrictions in four new areas.
Strict limits on travel and socialising will come into force from 6pm on Tuesday across Newport, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent in south Wales.
Lockdowns are already in place in Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf and the Welsh government made it clear that other local restrictions or even a national lockdown could be brought in.
No lockdown has been imposed in Cardiff but three of the areas now restricted have borders with the Welsh capital and many people from the lockdown areas travel there every day for work and education.
Announcing what he called “genuinely extraordinary” measures, the Welsh health minister, Vaughan Gething, said the rise of coronavirus cases in the four new areas had been “worrying and rapid”.
In Merthyr, the cases appear to be mainly focused around two distinct clusters, linked to a large employer and a pub.
The cases in Blaenau Gwent have also been linked to pubs but there have also been cases among care home staff and in secondary schools.
Gething said the cases in Newport had been traced back to a house party in late August and spread to pubs. There had been a sharp rise of cases in a short time in Bridgend, he added.
The minister said the outbreak in Rhondda Cynon Taf began among younger people but had spread to older residents and there were 44 patients being treated for Covid at Royal Glamorgan hospital.
In all, it means that from Tuesday evening more than 800,000 people in Wales will be subject to local restrictions, out of a national population of 3 million.
In the four new areas people will not be allowed to enter or leave without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education. People will only be able to meet others they do not live with outdoors. They will not be able to form, or be in, extended households and all licensed premises will have to close by 11pm.
Speaking at a press conference in Cardiff, Gething said all-Wales measures could follow: “We may reach a point though where the spread continues where we need to seek wider action across a region of Wales, or indeed across the country.”
Asked if roadblocks might be needed to make sure people did not travel in or out of the affected areas, Gething said: “Most people are following the rules.”
On whether he agreed with the warning by the chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, that the country should be prepared for significant restrictions for the next six months, Gething said he could not confirm a timescale.
The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, was speaking by telephone to Boris Johnson on Monday afternoon. Both the Welsh and Scottish governments complained strongly last week at the lack of direct contact between their leaders and the prime minister.
Gething said on Monday it was a “helpful step forward” and such direct communication was necessary if UK-wide measures were to be taken.
Andrew RT Davies, the shadow health minister for the Welsh Conservatives, called for a resumption of shielding among elderly and vulnerable people.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Covid lockdowns in four more areas of Wales as cases rise | World news