Restrictions for Newport, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent; Whitty calls for ‘break in unnecessary links between households’
The Welsh health minister, Vaughan Gething, said the fresh restrictions in four new areas in south Wales (see 12.43pm) would come into force at 6pm tomorrow.
The new restrictions will apply to everyone living in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport. The restrictions are:
We have seen a worrying and rapid rise in cases in four other south Wales council areas – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport.
In many cases, this is linked to people socialising indoors without social distancing. We are seeing evidence of coronavirus spreading. We need to take action to control and, ultimately, reduce its spread and protect people’s health.
It’s always a difficult decision to introduce restrictions but coronavirus has not gone away – it is still circulating in communities across Wales and, as we are seeing in parts of south Wales, small clusters can quickly cause real issues in local communities.
We need everyone’s help to bring coronavirus under control. We need everyone to pull together and to follow the measures which are there to protect you and your loved ones.
New local lockdown restrictions are to be imposed on four more areas of south Wales affecting more than 400,000 people.
The restrictions are being introduced in Newport, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent, the Welsh government has announced.
In all, it means more than 800,000 people in Wales will be subject to local lockdown restrictions, out of a population across the country of 3 million.
Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish government endorses the alarming warnings this morning about the potential for a substantial increase in Covid-19 deaths and cases from Patrick Valance and Chris Whitty.
She said: “Doing nothing in the face of this quite rapid spread now isn’t an option.”
Speaking during today’s routine coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon said she is due to speak to Boris Johnson on Monday afternoon where she would urge him to agree to a joint “four nations” strategy on imposing a much tougher lockdown.
She said Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, promised her and other devolved government leaders on Saturday that there would be a Cobra emergency meeting on Monday or Tuesday, but the exact timing of that had not yet been confirmed.
She said the Scottish government would be willing to delay a Scottish government decision on exactly what new measures would be required but said the prime minister had to act urgently and decisively. “Because of the urgency of the situation we cannot, must not and will not wait,” she said.
Sturgeon added that she expected to address the Scottish parliament on the new emergency measures in the next two days.
She said there had been 255 new positive cases over the last 24 hours, with 103 new cases in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board, 47 in Lanarkshire and 30 in the Lothians. There had been no further deaths recorded overnight, but another 10 people were now in hospital, with the total number of confirmed cases at 73.
To prevent 50,000 cases a day UK must reduce movement & assembly, the engines of infection by maximising remote working from home; schools open 6 days but each child for 4 days so schools only 2/3rds full; wear masks & use straws in pubs. https://t.co/mQGG7jcnTS
So even more vital that Government makes it possible for people to keep safer:- continue ban on evictions (& compensate landlords where needed)- continue furlough scheme where it’s needed- continue – & crucially widen scope of – self-employed scheme https://t.co/sg33cnz105
From Richard Burgon, the Labour MP and secretary of the leftwing campaign group of Labour MPs
After that briefing nobody can be left in any doubt about the seriousness of the current situation. Or about the scale of government failures.Just a few weeks ago it was telling people to get out and spend and to go back to work & school – instead of sorting test and trace.
A clear message from Whitty about personal responsibility…This hugely important BUT (as the recent testing shambles has shown us) Govt also must admit its own failures and step up.Without a working test and trace in place we cannot learn to live alongside this Virus.
Downing Street has announced that Boris Johnson will be speaking by phone to Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, Mark Drakeford, the first minister of Wales, and Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, first minister and deputy first minister of Northern Ireland respectively, later today.
Sturgeon and Drakeford have been particularly critical of Johnson for not communicating with them regularly. Last week Drakeford said that he had only spoken to Johnson once since May and that this was “simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together”.
The Health Minister @VaughanGething will be making an important announcement about local restrictions in today’s press conference.For more information, watch live at 12:30 on @WelshGovernment. https://t.co/Ji75F9SIR2
This rapid spike in infections was not inevitable, but a consequence of the government’s incompetence and failure to put in place an adequate testing system.
The prime minister is making a statement later this week, but Labour’s priority is that there must be a national effort to prevent another national lockdown.
The government must do what it takes to prevent another lockdown, which would cause unimaginable damage to our economy and people’s wellbeing.
We need an effective testing and tracing system with support for people to isolate. When testing breaks down we can’t track this virus and it quickly gets out of control.
We are also calling for a Cobra of the nations and regions so that the government acts with the urgency this demands.
Here are the main points from the briefing by Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser. The words were strong, but the visuals were even more compelling – in particular the “graph of doom” (my phrase, not theirs) – which Vallance insisted was not a forecast, but which was clearly intended to jolt the public into recognising the case for fresh restrictions.
At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days. If, and that’s quite a big if, but if that continues unabated and this grows doubling every seven days … if that continued you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day.
50,000 cases per day would be expected to lead a month later, so the middle of November say, to 200-plus deaths per day.
The challenge therefore is to make sure the doubling time does not stay at seven days.
There are already things in place which are expected to slow that, and to make sure that we do not enter this exponential growth and end up with the problems that you would predict as a result of that.
That requires speed, it requires action and it requires and it requires enough in order to be able to bring that down.
As the disease spreads, as it spreads across age groups, we expect to see increasing hospitalisations and unfortunately, those increasing hospitalisations will lead to increasing deaths.
If this carried on unabated – these numbers are relatively small, we’re talking about around 200 at the moment – but if this continued along the path that [Vallance] laid out, the number of deaths directly from Covid … will continue to rise, potentially on an exponential curve, that means doubling and doubling and doubling again.
And you can quickly move from really quite small numbers to really very large numbers because of that exponential process.
What we’ve seen is a progression where, after the remarkable efforts which got the rates right down across the country, first we saw very small outbreaks, maybe associated with a workplace or another environment, then we’ve seen more localised outbreaks which have got larger over time, particularity in the cities.
And now what we’re seeing is a rate of increase across the great majority of the country. It is going at different rates but it is now increasing.
And what we’ve found is, as we go through in time, anywhere that was falling is now moving over to beginning to rise and then the rate of rise continues in an upwards direction. So, this is not someone else’s problem, this is all of our problem.
We have to break unnecessary links between households because that is the way in which this virus is transmitted. And this means reducing social contacts whether they are at work, and this is where we have enormous gratitude to all the businesses for example who have worked so hard to make their environments Covid-secure to reduce the risk, and also in social environments.
This is a balance of risk between if we don’t do enough the virus will take off – and at the moment that is the path we’re clearly on – and if we do not change course we are going to find ourselves in a very difficult problem.
At this point the seasons are against us, we’re now going into the seasons – late autumn and winter – which benefit respiratory viruses, and it is very likely they will benefit Covid, as they do, for example, flu.
So we should see this as a six-month problem that we have to deal with collectively, it’s not indefinite.
But it is more likely that a vaccine will be available early next year – although that is not guaranteed, he says.
Whitty says a lot of people argue that individuals should be allowed to choose how much risk they take.
Second, we can isolate the virus. If people have symptoms, they must self-isolate. People who do this are helping to keep the virus out of circulation.
Third, we must “break unnecessary links between households”. That means cutting contacts at work, and in social environments. But we cannot do this without significant downsides, he says.
He says, if we do not change course, we will find ourselves in a very difficult situation.
The virus can kill people. And if it led to the NHS being overwhelmed, people would die, he says. But he says this did not happen in the spring.
He says the virus can also have an indirect impact on health, because operations get postponed etc.
This has only started in England, he says. But it means we have turned a corner. And the increase could be exponential. That means the numbers could eventually get very high.
Seasonal flu normally kills round 7,000 people a year. But this virus is more virulent, he says.
He says treatments have got better. But that will not be enough to keep deaths at a minimal level, he says.
He presents a graph showing the rate of spread of Covid (on the left) and the rate of increase (on the right). It is a threat everywhere, he says.
In London the figure could be a high as 17%. That would slow the spread, he says, but not stop it.
He says that is not just due to more testing. In every age group the proportion of people testing positive is going up.
And the ONS study suggests cases are going up. It suggests about 6,000 people a day are getting infected.
Increases in case numbers have led to an increase in hospitalisations. And deaths are increasing too, he says.
He says there is a simple message from the slide: as the disease spreads, there will be more hospitalisations and more deaths, he says.
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