Llanelli is going into local lockdown before Cardiff and Swansea because the rise of coronavirus cases there is said to be “not in control”.
It was announced on Friday afternoon that a large part of Llanelli, together with Cardiff and Swansea, would enter a period of lockdown over the weekend.
However, the new restrictions in Llanelli are coming into force at 6pm on Saturday – 24 hours before those in Wales’ biggest two cities.
The reason for this is said to be the concentration of cases within the Llanelli area – with Health Minister Vaughan Gething confirming that eight out of 10 cases in the county of Carmarthenshire are “linked to Llanelli”.
Carmarthenshire Council has also said that Llanelli has seen a “concentrated spread” of Covid-19 cases compared to other parts of the county. In the past week, 85 new cases have been identified in Llanelli, compared to just 24 in the rest of Carmarthenshire.
In that time, Llanelli has had a rate of 151.6 new cases per 100,000 population, whereas Carmarthenshire, excluding Llanelli, has seen a rate of 18.1.
To put that into context, the rate in Newport was at 45.3 per 100,000 population when it was put into lockdown at the start of the week. Blaenau Gwent has the highest rate in Wales currently with 201.8.
Speaking on Friday lunchtime, Mr Gething was asked about why the lockdown measures were coming in 24 hours’ earlier in Llanelli and he said: “In Llanelli we have a particular challenge around the town, which has seen a significant spread which is not in control.
“We have spoken with the local health board and with the local authority, and we understand that about 35,000 people will be covered by the new restrictions.”
Mr Gething added that the majority of cases in the Llanelli area could be traced to people “socialising without social distancing”.
Under the restrictions in Llanelli, a large part of the town and surrounding areas are being classified as a ‘health protection zone’ which will cover 13 ward areas – Bigyn, Bynea, Dafen, Elli ward, Felinfoel, Glanymor, Hendy, Hengoed, Llanegennech, Lliedi, Llwynhendy, Tyisha, and Swiss Valley.
People living in any of the areas listed above will not be able to visit anyone else’s home, or accept visitors into their home, unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ such as providing care for a vulnerable person
Travelling in and out of the ‘health protection zone’ will be limited to travel which is considered ‘essential’ – holidays are not considered ‘essential’
People will also be asked to wear face coverings anywhere where they cannot maintain a two-metre distance from others, including when picking up children from school
People within the ‘health protection zone’ must work from home where possible, and employers must take all reasonable steps to support staff to do so
Students will be allowed to travel out of the zone to go to and from school or college
Places such as leisure centres or other pubic spaces should only be used by people living within the defined area
Shops are allowed to remain open, but people living outside the ‘health protection zone’ should avoid travelling to them and should shop within their own locality where possible
Emlyn Dole, leader of Carmarthenshire Council, said: “It is worrying to see how sharply the number of positive cases has risen in the Llanelli area, and action has had to be taken to help stop the spread and break the chain of infections concentrated in this area to prevent a whole county lockdown.
“We must all do the right thing, follow the advice and protect each other. In parts of Llanelli, we’re asking people and businesses to make even greater sacrifices – we fully appreciate the impact this will have, but there is no other way. We must stop the spread.”
“Our local community has given us such tremendous support during the past few months. To protect the health of our people, including the most vulnerable, and to ensure our NHS resources are available to provide people with the care they need; we need the help of our Llanelli population and wider community now more than ever before.
“Whilst hospital admissions have not yet increased again for Covid-19 cases, we have seen a sharp rise in positive cases in the community, and in time this is likely to have an impact on hospital admissions.
“The very best way we can support each other and those we love, is to follow local restrictions, minimise our contacts, practice good hygiene and self-isolate and book a test if we have any Covid-19 symptoms.”
Llanelli MS Lee Waters said: “These new restrictions have been put in place after the Llanelli area’s rate of infection rose to 151 per 100,000 people. This is a significant rise, and a rate far higher than Cardiff.
“Through successful use of the Welsh track and trace system Public Health Wales have been able to identify the 109 people in Llanelli who have tested positive for Covid-19 and have traced 977 people they have been in contact with and given them advice on whether they should self-isolate and get tested.
“We’re urging people in the area to please abide by these new restrictions, think carefully about the journeys you make and people you see, and above all help us to protect our most vulnerable residents.
“These restrictions are going to be reviewed after 14 days, so if we pull together now, we can get through this. Our teams will be available to answer any questions you have, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.”
Testing people and then tracing the contacts of those infected is considered vital to stop the disease from spreading.
The idea of testing is to find people with the virus and keep them isolated to avoid it being spread through the wider community.
The current test involves taking a swab from the nose and throat swab and then sending it off to be processed at a lab.
Llanelli MP Nia Griffith said: “This is the first time a lockdown hasn’t been applied on a county-wide basis. That’s because the vast majority of new cases in the past week have been in and around Llanelli, accounting for eight out of ten cases in Carmarthenshire as a whole.
“We’ve seen in Caerphilly that where people comply with the new restrictions that the virus can be successfully brought under control so we appeal to people locally to do the same.”
Leader of the Carmarthenshire Labour group, Rob James, said: “It is right that these measures be taken now after we have seen a significant, and concentrated, rise in Coronavirus cases recently.
“Labour Councillors will work with Carmarthenshire Council and Dyfed Powys Police to ensure that the rules are enforced in an appropriate manner.
“We have seen in other areas of Wales that by all of us playing our part, we can reverse this trend and protect our communities.”
Although the number of new Covid-19 cases within Carmarthenshire is overwhelmingly concentrated in Llanelli, the whole of the county has now been placed on an alert, meaning that the tighter restrictions coming into force in Llanelli on Saturday evening could be extended further afield in the days or weeks to come.
News – Llanelli’s high virus rate is why it’s locking down 24 hours before Swansea