Welsh Council Leaders: People socialising with other households indoors driving virus infections in Wales

Socialising with people from outside your household, house parties and a lack of social distancing are driving transmission rates across Bridgend County Borough, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Data from the Test Trace Protect service is showing that coronavirus transmission is being driven by people who are not following current rules in place to limit the spread of coronavirus – namely socialising in close contact with people from outside of their household in a range of settings including their workplaces and hospitality venues as well as through people hosting house parties, which are not allowed within the current restrictions.

Under local lockdown rules, people cannot meet up indoors with anyone who is not a member of their household. Pub crawls and visiting multiple venues is also discouraged as this not only increases the chances of people catching coronavirus, but also increases the risk of spreading it within the community. People must socially distance when they are at work and when they are socialising outside of work.

All licensed venues are legally required to take the contact details of all people who enter their venue so the Test Trace Protect service can act quickly if there is a risk people in a venue may have been exposed to coronavirus. Pubs and clubs are also legally required to implement social distancing measures such as at least two metre distance between separate households, table service only, no loud music, and stopping alcohol sales at by 10pm.

The vast majority of businesses in Bridgend, Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taf are working hard to comply with the rules and keep their customers and staff safe. Licencing Officers in partnership with South Wales Police are working closely with the licensed trade to support them to comply.

House parties are also a public health concern. These house parties may be between family members who do not live together, between neighbours and friends, as well as birthday parties and other celebratory events.

Under current lockdown restrictions, these events are not permitted indoors, and even when taking place outdoors, there must be a maximum of 30 people, social distancing of at least two metres must be maintained, and good hand hygiene practiced. Evidence highlights that health protection measures are reduced in social gatherings where people feel comfortable, with people less likely to practice social distancing especially when consuming alcohol.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council said: “this is a really concerning trend that we are seeing across the region, which needs to be brought under control.

“We’ve been in a local lockdown for three weeks now, and we are not seeing the number of cases reduce at the rate we should be seeing – we still have sustained high levels of infection.

“The worrying increase in cases linked to house parties and social contact is also something that is being tackled, but we need the support of the community to do this effectively. If you feel the health of your community is being put at risk, report it.

“People in Rhondda Cynon Taf and across the region are working really hard to stick to the rules, often missing out on things that are important to them and their families.

“Council Officers are working seven days a week, in close partnership with South Wales Police, to support businesses to comply and swiftly deal with those that are not abiding by the current regulations. We all have a responsibility to keep our communities safe.”

Councillor Kevin O’Neill, Leader of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council said: “The figures speak for themselves and there’s growing concern around the night-time economy sector.

“The majority of pubs and club are being responsible, as are the majority of people, however once again it’s the few who are spoiling it for others.

“As the growing evidence points to those socialising and having parties, there’s also evidence to suggest that house parties can lead to anti-social behaviour and now is simply not the time.

“Please stick to the rules and help us to keep schools and businesses open and, of course, protect the elderly and vulnerable.”

Councillor Huw David, Leader of Bridgend County Borough Council said: “I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to follow pandemic guidelines in order to keep yourself, your friends, your family and your community safe.

“The effort we make now will be instrumental in determining whether current pandemic restrictions have to continue, can be lifted, or need to be intensified in order to stop the increasing spread of the coronavirus.

“Many residents are already making a huge effort to turn the tide against the virus, so please, don’t let that effort go to waste – help us to help you, and play your part in the fight against Covid-19.”

Anyone concerned about businesses or residents not adhering to the current coronavirus regulations or that a house party is taking place against current lockdown rules, can report these to South Wales Police via 101.

Full details of the local lockdown restrictions for Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf can be found at www.gov.wales/local-lockdown

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