More than 500,000 people in North Wales will be plunged into a local lockdown amid a spike in infections, the country’s health minister announced tonight.
From 6pm on Thursday, residents of Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham will be banned from mixing indoors with other households.
People will also not be allowed to enter of leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as work or education.
However, travel will be permitted through the affected areas to avoid cutting off motorists from getting to or out of Gwynedd and Anglesey on the A55.
The recent rise in coronavirus cases has been blamed on people socialising indoors.
The announcement this evening will affect around 504,000 people and will bring the number of people in Wales under lockdown across 16 local areas to a total of more than 2.3 million.
Announcing the restrictions, Health minister Vaughan Gething said: ‘Large parts of Wales will now be subject to local restrictions but I want to be clear – this is not a national lockdown. These are a series of local restrictions to respond to rises in cases in individual areas.’
Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford has now urged Boris Johnson to urgently consider imposing travel restrictions in areas of England with high levels of coronavirus infections.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Drakeford said people living in such areas in England can travel long distances, potentially ‘spreading the virus well beyond their locality’.
‘I ask that you give urgent consideration to the introduction of similar travel restrictions in the current high infection areas of England to those we have here in Wales,’ he said.
‘This would be a significant step in lessening the risk that we collectively face, and give communities in border areas considerable reassurance that we are taking every possible step to protect them.
‘Policy officials and lawyers from the Welsh Government would be happy to advise on the way these measures have been implemented in our areas of local restriction.
‘Although we have implemented different policy responses in the four nations of the UK at different times during this pandemic, and, of course, this will continue, I urge you to consider these additional measures as part of our shared aim of public health protection for all four nations.’
In other coronavirus developments in Britain today:
- Boris Johnson was lampooned as he apologised for getting lockdown rules in the North East wrong — hours after another minister admitted she did not know if friends can meet in pub gardens;
- The Prime Minister was desperately trying to quell Tory mutinies over coronavirus lockdown, the university shambles and 10pm pubs curfew today amid claims angry MPs are mounting a ‘Trojan Horse’ plot to get rid of him;
- Mr Johnson is due to address the nation at a press conference tomorrow with medical and science chiefs Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance;
- Local lockdowns could be imposed within 24 hours of a coronavirus outbreak thanks to real-time data from the NHS app, it was claimed;
- Middle-aged customers are being ‘humiliated’ by ‘app disciples’ at pubs and restaurants banning them from going in without the NHS Covid-19 app – despite government rules saying it is not compulsory.
From 6pm on Thursday, residents of Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham will be banned from mixing indoors with other households
Mr Drakeford asked for a further Cobra meeting to be ‘convened urgently to discuss this and other imminent challenges’.
The letter was also sent to leaders in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as the Secretary of State for Wales.
Arfon Jones, the police and crime commissioner for North Wales, also called for such restrictions.
He tweeted: ‘Conversations ongoing about local lockdowns in North Wales.
‘Perhaps we could start by imposing restriction on travel from local lockdown areas in England similar to what the restrictions are in Wales. The virus comes along the A55 not the A470.’
Angela Burns, of the Welsh Conservatives, told the Senedd that businesses in the microtourism industry – such as eco-lodges and small campsites – had been badly affected by the pandemic.
People will also not be allowed to enter of leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as for work or education. Pictured top: A ‘social distancing champion’ walks through Wrexham town centre.
She said a letter from Microtourism Wales highlighted how members were ‘dealing with confused guests looking to cancel or change their holidays because they do not understand the local lockdown policies’.
The latest local lockdown of Wales was announced by Vaughan Gething at today’s daily coronavirus press conference.
The health minister said: ‘Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in coronavirus cases in four north Wales local authority areas – in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham and Conwy.
‘These are largely linked to people socialising indoors and are the pattern of transmission similar to what we have seen in South Wales.
‘We have worked closely with local authority leaders and the police in North Wales and we all agree about the need to take swift action to control and the spread of the virus.
People will also not be allowed to enter of leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as work or education (Conwy Castle pictured)
The new restrictions mean people under lockdown will not be allowed to enter or leave their areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education.
People will only be able to meet people they do not live with outdoors and will not be able to form, or be in, extended households.
‘It’s always difficult to make the decision to impose restrictions but we hope that these measures will make a positive difference – just as we have seen in Caerphilly and Newport, where local residents have pulled together and followed the rules.
‘It is important we all work together and support each other. This isn’t just about protecting ourselves, it’s about protecting each other.’
These rules are in addition to nationwide restrictions such as a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants and a requirement to wear face coverings in public indoor areas.
On Tuesday, the total figure for positive cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic in Wales reached 23,597. The number of deaths in the country of people with coronavirus increased to 1,615.
Of the new counties entering lockdown, Flintshire had the highest incident rate with 45.5, cases per 100,000 people in the latest week, while Conwy cases 42.7 cases on the same measure.
In Denbighshire the rate was 41.8, and in Wrexham it was 33.1.
But these figures pale in comparison to Wales’ worst rate in Blaenau Gwent, south Wales which has a rate of 307.7 per 100,000 over seven days.
Just six mostly rural Welsh counties – Monmouthshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey and Powys – will not be subject to restrictions from Thursday.
Britain records 7,143 more coronavirus cases and 71 deaths as infections rise 45% in a week and deaths in England and Wales jump 40% over the same period
Britain today recorded another 7,143 coronavirus cases and 71 deaths as the outbreak continues to grow with both infections and fatalities spiking more than 40 per cent in a week.
The UK’s weekly infection rate now currently stands at 64 cases per 100,000 people — a figure which is rising but not as quickly as government advisers warned last week when they made the startling projection of 50,000 new cases a day by mid-October. For comparison, 4,926 Britons tested positive last Tuesday.
But confirmed Covid-19 cases are still nowhere near levels witnessed during the darkest weeks of the pandemic in March and April, when more than 100,000 Britons were estimated to be catching the virus every day. Number 10’s lacklustre testing policy meant millions of cases were never counted.
Deaths can vary day-by-day and are normally lower on Sundays and Mondays because of a recording lag at the weekend — just 13 were announced yesterday. But when taking into account the rolling-average, the trend has risen upwards up around 23 victims a day last Tuesday to an average of 35 today. The 71 fatalities posted today is the highest since 97 on July 1.
It comes after an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report released today revealed 139 people succumbed to the life-threatening disease in England and Wales in the week ending September 18, up 40 per cent from the 99 in the previous seven days.
This marks the third week in a row Covid-19 fatalities have risen after reaching a record low of 78 at the beginning of September. For comparison, 900 people were dying from the virus every day in April.
Data shows there have been 491 Covid-19 hospital admissions in the North East in the past month, compared to 361 in the Midlands, 264 in London, 109 in the South East, 72 in the East and 52 in South West. Only the North West of England, with 552 admissions, has had more than the NE during that time. Graphs show how the number of hospital patients with Covid-19 in each different region of England has changed since the pandemic began
The weekly rise may confirm experts’ fears that climbing infections in recent weeks would eventually translate into more deaths, although it is too early to tell for definite. Cases have been on the up since July 4, when hundreds of thousands of Britons flocked to pubs, bars and restaurants to celebrate ‘Super Saturday’ after they were finally allowed to re-open following months of being shut to contain the life-threatening virus.
Until recently, hospitalisations and deaths had remained low and stable despite soaring cases — largely because it was mainly young, healthy people driving the transmission. Both have since started to rebound.
However, the number of victims dying every week from the disease is still a far cry from the 8,000-plus weekly deaths at the height of the crisis. The ONS report also shows flu and pneumonia killed eight times more people than Covid-19 in the week ending September 18.
The number of deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales has risen 40 per cent in a week. This graph shows deaths from Covid-19 (red) compared to total deaths (blue) and the average for the past five years (dashed line)
The total number of deaths in the UK remained above the five-year average, this graph reveals, with 259 deaths more than was expected. Statisticians had estimated that deaths may drop below the five-year average as coronavirus sped up the deaths of those that would have died from other causes
Deaths from coronavirus rose in six of the nine regions of England. The North East and London were the only two regions to record fewer overall deaths than the five-year average
Department of Health data shows how the total number of coronavirus victims in the UK currently stands at 42,001. This only takes into account patients who died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19. On average, 35 Britons are now succumbing to the life-threatening illness each day.
Only the US, Brazil, India and Mexico, all countries with substantially larger populations, have suffered more fatalities.
Britain has also had 446,156 confirmed cases of coronavirus since recording its first two at the end of January. But the true toll is likely to be at least 6million because hundreds of thousands of infected patients were never tested during the peak of the first wave.
Government data shows 6,087 Britons are now testing positive for the virus every day, on average, up from 4,189 last Tuesday. This had dropped to around 500 at the start of July, when the economy was finally opened up.
Professor Kevin McConway, a statistician at the Open University, said the rise in coronavirus deaths was ‘not too concerning’ yet. But he warned the current rise in infections may not take its true toll on lives for another two or three weeks, due to a lag in the time it takes for Covid-19 patients to fall seriously ill and die.
He said: ‘These figures are not too concerning yet, I’d argue, because the weekly numbers of Covid-related deaths were higher than these levels right up to late July or early August, so this is by no means a large spike in deaths.
How the number of new coronavirus cases announced each day has changed since the first wave of the pandemic, when barely any patients were getting tested for the disease. Top experts believe more than 100,000 cases were actually occurring every day in the spring
There were 2,049 patients being treated for the disease on Sunday, rising from 764 a fortnight ago and 1,319 last week. This figure had been falling for four months straight after peaking at 20,000 in mid-April