Llanelli could be the first area in Wales to be placed under a ‘town-level’ lockdown, a leading doctor has confirmed.
Dr Quentin Sandifer, medical director at Public Health Wales, has confirmed there is a “high level of concern” regarding Llanelli and that lockdowns are being considered on a “sub-county level”.
Dr Sandifer was speaking at a virtual meeting of the Senedd’s Health, Social Care and Sports Committee on Wednesday morning.
He was asked about the possibility of locking down smaller and more specific areas compared to the county-wide lockdowns that we have previously seen across Wales during the past two weeks.
Member of the Senedd David Rees asked during the meeting: “ Carmarthenshire is a large area which has major towns like Carmarthen and Llanelli, for example.
“How small an area could you go down to if you wanted (to impose) local restrictions?”
Dr Sandifer replied by confirming that Public Health Wales could impose lockdowns at a town level.
“Looking at the position in Carmarthenshire, we do see quite a variation within that county area, with the highest figures of concern in the Llanelli area.
“That is where we are paying particular attention within Carmarthenshire. So we are able to go down to a sub-county, local level in terms of our considerations, and that is what we are actively doing.”
Dr Sandifer was also asked at what point a national lockdown would be recommended in Wales if local lockdowns fail to considerably bring down cases, to which he replied by pointing to Caerphilly as an example of the benefit of a local lockdown.
“What we can see at the moment, for example in Caerphilly, is that the early application of local restrictions is beginning to demonstrate some effect on infection rates," said Dr Sandifer.
"We have seen those rates go down over the last two or three days and we are hopeful that early intervention will mitigate the need for us to take a much broader approach which we would rather avoid if we could possibly do so.”
Testing people and then tracing the contacts of those infected is considered vital to stop the disease from spreading.
Anyone showing symptoms of coronavirus should be able to be tested.
The symptoms are:
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.
Despite the problems, the government maintains anyone with symptoms should still apply for one.
Until you can get a test it's important you and your household self-isolate.
How to get tested:
Due to the raised concern in Carmarthenshire, and in particular Llanelli, Hywel Dda University Health Board, which manages health care in the county along with neighbouring Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, is urging residents to get tested if they have any of the Covid-19 symptoms - a high temperature, a loss of or change to sense of smell or taste, or a new and continuous cough.
With that in mind, the health board, working with Carmarthenshire Council, is introducing increased testing capacity in Llanelli.
A new mobile testing unit has been set up at Parc y Scarlets from Wednesday, based at the stadium’s Car Park B and accessed via Trostre Retail Park.
The health board said there should be “no reason for Llanelli residents to travel excessive distances for a test”, and that increased testing capacity is also being promised at the Ty’r Nant site, which is next to KFC in the Trostre area of the town, and further west at the United Counties Showground outside Carmarthen.
Tests should be booked via the usual online portal, but if residents are experiencing difficulty they are asked to e-mail [email protected] or call 0300 333 2222.
The plea for people to get tested comes after a spike in positive cases in Carmarthenshire over the past few days.
According to the Welsh Government, areas of the country with between 15 and 20 new cases per 100,000 population, based on seven days worth of data, are placed on a “watch list”.
If that number increases to between 25 and 50 cases per 100,000, restrictions would be considered, and if it goes above 50 cases per 100,000, further restrictions - such as a local lockdown seen elsewhere in Wales - would be put in place immediately.
On Tuesday, statistics from Public Health Wales revealed that, in the seven days up to Monday, Carmarthenshire had an infection rate of 34.4 per 100,000 people - which was higher than Cardiff and Swansea.
“Llanelli and the wider Carmarthenshire region has seen an increase in cases over the past few days, so we are urging the public to play their part and help reduce the spread of the virus by getting tested as soon as possible," said Alison Shakeshaft, executive director of therapies and health science at Hywel Dda University Health Board.
“We have increased testing capacity for the area and are calling on those with symptoms to book a test.
“Coronavirus remains a very serious illness, especially for the elderly and those with existing risk factors.
"I would urge the public to remain vigilant and follow the rules, including wearing face coverings that cover the mouth and nose, keeping two metres away from others outside of their household bubble, as well as washing hands regularly, or using a hand sanitiser if hand washing is not possible.”
According to Public Health Wales, Carmarthenshire reported 16 new cases of Covid-19 in the 24 hours up to Monday afternoon, and 65 new cases in total in the preceding seven days.
Carmarthenshire Council has admitted that cases are now rising rapidly, particularly in the east of the county.
“We were prepared for a possible second wave, but it’s come more quickly than we anticipated and the virus is spreading in our communities more than we expected,” said the council’s leader, Emlyn Dole.
“Now is the time we must all consider how our actions may impact on others.
"I know it feels unnatural to keep your distance from friends and neighbours, to not get together at the local pub, or to wear a mask to pop to the shops, but these actions are essential – these actions are what could prevent you unintentionally spreading Covid-19 to someone less likely than you to survive it.”