A joint statement by: Local Authority Leaders Cllr Andrew Morgan (Rhondda Cynon Taf), Cllr Kevin O’Neil (Merthyr Tydfil) and Cllr Huw David (Bridgend), Dr Kelechi Nnoaham, Director of Public Health for Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and Chair of the Incident Management Team for Cwm Taf Morgannwg and the Commissioner of South Wales Police.
As of 6pm this evening, the county boroughs of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Bridgend and Merthyr Tydfil – the entire Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board area – will all have local restrictions imposed upon them linked to sharp rises in coronavirus cases in these areas and growing concerns.
Travel restrictions are in place and residents will not be allowed to leave their local authority area. This means people living in Rhondda Cynon Taf will not be able to travel to Merthyr, or people from Bridgend will not be able to travel to Rhondda Cynon Taf, unless they have exceptional circumstances for travelling outside of their area. Full details of these can be found at www.gov.wales/local-lockdown
An urgent plea is being made to the communities of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Bridgend and Merthyr Tydfil for their help with turning around the rapidly declining coronavirus situation before the numbers get out of control and Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board hospital admissions surge.
Professor Dr Kelechi Nnoaham, Director of Public Health for Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said: “These restrictions across our health board area are a very real sign of the seriousness of what is happening in our communities as cases continue to rise as well as the number of people testing positive for the virus.
“Cwm Taf Morgannwg now has the highest percentage of cases of coronavirus of any other local authority in Wales at 119.2 per 100,000 – a figure that has continued to rise for the past 14 days.
“Active case finding has been happening in the Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil areas over the past seven days through the temporary testing facilities and testing will also begin in the Bridgend area this week.
“It is hugely disappointing that we are in this place despite the increased measures and the local restrictions put in place in Rhondda Cynon Taf last week. Over the past seven days, there has been a sharp increase of cases within the borough of Bridgend and the situation in Merthyr has also been closely monitored.
“Frustratingly, some people who have not followed the guidelines, are still not following the guidelines – letting their guard down, especially when they are with people they know well. That has to stop.
“The virus does not just affect the elderly and vulnerable. It can affect any of us. The rise in cases in the 40+ age group shows that transmission is occurring between close contacts; that’s between friends and family members.
“There is now a very real threat that we have only weeks before community cases turn into high levels of hospital admissions. The simple truth is that hospital admissions are rising already; this is NOT a myth.
“A hospital admission could be potentially fatal for someone you know or love, it could be your vulnerable parent, a partner, friend or neighbour.
Cllr Huw David, Leader of Bridgend County Borough Council, said: “We cannot afford to let our guard down against the coronavirus. Bridgend County Borough is one of the latest areas where new restrictions are now necessary, and it is essential for people to recognise that the pandemic has not gone away.
“This is now a critical phase in the fight against Covid-19. What happens next will largely depend upon whether we can all come together as a unified community to follow the guidance and its simple rules that will enable us to protect ourselves and others.
“In the case of Bridgend County Borough, it is also especially important for people not to travel or gather in large numbers for events such the cancelled Elvis Festival, so please – think twice, stay away, and stay safe.
“Arrangements are being made to locate a mobile testing centre within the county borough, so please look out for more details on this very soon.
Cllr Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, said: “The situation described by the Health Board demonstrates the concern of this Council and partners on the continued rise and prevalence of the virus in our communities.
“Health professionals, from nurses through to doctors are now facing the reality of the significant increase in the number of cases over the last fourteen days which led the Welsh Government to apply addition restriction in Rhondda Cynon Taf, and which is now sadly resulting in a continued increase in covid-19 positive hospital admissions. The evidence highlights the rise in cases in the 40+ age group and shows that the virus is not just affecting the elderly or vulnerable.
“It is clear that our social behaviors need to change, as transmission continues to occur between close contacts, and friends and family members, who are not adhering to social distancing requirements
“Unless we all take responsibility and act now, this situation will worsen and will place further pressures upon our health service, at a time of year, which in normal circumstances automatically creates additional pressures for the health service.”
“It is not inevitable that this increase will continue, if we all take responsibility role to avert the community transmission of the virus in RCT, by following social distancing and the recently introduced restrictions.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to turn this situation around.
“We urge people to consider their behaviour over these coming days or possibly weeks, and to think about whether they can honestly answer whether they have played their part in protecting our communities and keeping everyone safe.
“We can turn this around together.”
Cllr Kevin O’ Neill, Merthyr Tydfil Leader, said: “The decision to impose stricter restrictions has not been taken lightly; this is an essential measure to keep our communities safe and I fully support the Health Minister and his colleagues in their decision.
“Although many neighbouring authorities now have the same restrictions, I must stress the importance of staying within your own local authority boundary, unless it is for an essential journey as specified in the Welsh Government guidance.
“Merthyr Tydfil is closed to tourism. I would urge anyone from outside the area who was planning a visit to one of our local attractions to postpone their plans and revisit as soon as it is safe to do so. We will be delighted to welcome you back to our beautiful county borough at a later date.
“That being said, Merthyr Tydfil is a gateway to the Brecon Beacons from many areas of South Wales and the A470 remains open. We simply ask those travelling through to avoid stopping, where possible.
“A temporary mobile testing centre is available to our residents at Castle Car Park near to the Civic Centre, and I would urge anyone showing symptoms of Coronavirus to get tested.
“The vast majority of residents have stuck to the rules and for that we are thankful. Sadly, there are still a small few who feel that they do not need to follow the guidance and we would urge those people to think of the impact of their actions on the elderly and vulnerable, on business and our country.”
Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for the Novel Coronavirus response at Public Health Wales, said:
“It has never been more important for everyone living in these communities to follow the advice and guidance of the agencies responsible for managing this developing situation. We are aware of misinformation circulating in the public domain.
“Please trust us, trust in our messaging, in our communication to you. It could save lives.
“Please only use trusted sources of information from your local authority, Public Health Wales, local health board and Welsh Government.”
South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael added: “There has been a very worrying rise in Coronavirus cases in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil and Bridgend and I fully support the local authority and Welsh Government in taking the additional measures which are being introduced.
“This action is necessary to slow the spread of the virus in our communities and we need the people of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil and Bridgend to show the same community solidarity as we saw during the height of lockdown.
“My plea is for the public to follow the new measures and show respect and consideration to everyone in the community.
“As has been the case throughout this public health emergency, South Wales Police officers will play their part in encouraging people to play their part by following the rules but the central issue is for all of us to take individual and collective responsibility.
“This is a public health emergency but preventing the spread of Coronavirus is a responsibility that is shared by everybody and local authority staff and police officers have worked well together across South Wales through very difficult and challenging times.
“But I want to stress that the responsibility lies with every single one of us – young people, older people, parents, community leaders, those with leadership roles in sport as well as local authorities, businesses and those who work in the hospitality industry.
“If we don’t all support our NHS colleagues by taking personal responsibility we will all pay a price – and while it is a minority who flout the rules we all need to play a part in explaining to them that it really does matter.
“Our officers have shown how that can be done with the “4 Es” approach – they have engaged people, they’ve explained the rules, they’ve encouraged people to follow them and if necessary that have enforced the law. But enforcement shouldn’t be necessary – personal responsibility is absolutely essential and the local lockdown which has been put in place in the Rhondda is a clear example of what will happen everywhere if cases continue to rise.
“It is extremely worrying to see irresponsible and misleading messages on social media by people who think that Covid-19 is not a real threat. It is a real threat. People have died – and more people will die unless we stick to the clear rules and hark to the messages set out by Welsh Government.
“I support the calls made by community leaders and the health authority in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil and Bridgend for people to act now before the situation gets even worse and further restrictions have to be put in place – and that really applies to all of us, everywhere. Covid-19 hasn’t gone away and the threat remains real. We all must follow the rules or we will see more cases, more people becoming seriously ill and a rise in deaths. It really is a matter of life and death.”
There are now four testing units in the Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend area. Up to date information on these testing centres can be found on the local health board and local authority social media pages.
“We urge you to please only get a test if you have one of these symptoms:
“If you or a member of your household develop symptoms of cough, fever or change in sense of taste or smell, you must book a test for Coronavirus promptly to help control the spread of infection.
“The public has a vital role in preventing the spread of Coronavirus by always observing social distancing guidelines – that’s staying two metres away from others – washing hands regularly with soap or by using alcohol based sanitiser, and working from home if they can and wearing a face covering in accordance with Welsh Government’s regulations.
“People who test positive for Covid-19 should continue to self–isolate for 10 days.”