People in Llanelli react to news they are going into lockdown

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Anger, concern and exasperation is how the news that Llanelli is to go into lockdown tomorrow has been greeted by residents.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething announced the town is to be subject to new and tougher restrictions as numbers of Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the country.

Eight out of ten positive cases in Carmarthenshire are linked to Llanelli, said Mr Gething, who added a majority of them “have been traced to people socialising without social distancing”.

The announcement followed speculation Llanelli could be the subject of the first Welsh ‘town-only’ lockdown after health bosses and the local council spoke of a concern regarding the area.

Cardiff and Swansea are also due to go into lockdown, from 6pm on Sunday, September 27.

But the rules come into force in Llanelli 24 hours earlier, on Saturday, September 26.

Wales Online spoke to shoppers and business owners in the city centre, shortly after the news had been announced.

All understood why the measure was being introduced, but opinions still varied.

Sophie Palmer, a cleaner at Tesco, said: “I don’t understand how I can send my children to school in a bubble with thirty other pupils, but I can’t be in a bubble with my parents.

“I work in Tesco, and I can see that people are social distancing there, even though some are exempt from wearing masks.

“They are looking to use people in Llanelli as guinea pigs; there are going to be the first Wales rugby home games here in October where they can have supporters, and yet we are the only town to be locked down”.



Sophie Palmer, from Llanelli, says she thinks the town is being used as a ‘guinea pig’ with the local lockdown

Peter Meeneghan questioned why pubs had been allowed to reopen ahead of churches.

He said: “If the shops stay open [during the lockdown] and people are wearing masks, it won’t be too bad.

“I wear a mask when I go into shops, but I don’t if I’m outside as it feels claustrophobic.

“I agree with the lockdown on the whole because it needs to be done.

“But I don’t think pubs should have opened. Churches weren’t opened, but pubs were allowed to.

“You’d think you would be safer in god’s house”.

Mum-of-four Vicky Phillips, originally from Llanelli but now living in Gorseinon, said: “I understand if a lockdown is what it takes to make it safe. I’d be prepared to do anything, although you wouldn’t want to be in isolation.

“I see social distancing in town, but people have been congregating in homes and I don’t know if they social distance there.

“Maybe the elderly don’t fully understand all the issues, and perhaps those aged 20 – 30 do quite get the full implications.

“I’ve got four children, and I can’t chose one of them to see so I won’t see any.

“I don’t really blame the government for this. Whatever government we might have would still have to face the same problems”.

Mike Richards, owner of antique store Time, Past and Present, on Stepney Street, said: “I think it is shocking they are locking down Llanelli. Why aren’t they locking down Carmarthen?

“I blame tourism for part of it, with people coming to different areas. They are not taking that into account.

“People visiting shops are wearing masks, I haven’t any complaints about that.

“Is it fair to blame the youngsters?

“I think the Welsh Government has been disgraceful. They’ve done well until now, but I don’t agree with them on this at all”.



James Mochan said he didn’t believe Llanelli should be singled out, and the lockdown should be country-wide

James Mochan, also from Llanelli, said: “I’m high risk, so it does worry me. But this is the new normal.

“I am fifty, so I don’t know what category I’m supposed to fit in.

“It is the younger generation that is looking to go out, and they might well help spread it.

“If the lockdown is just for a couple of weeks or a month, that might be ok. But I think it should be everywhere, not just Llanelli”.

Susan Parry added: “It is a frightening situation. It worries me about when it will ever end.

“The government do not seem to know what they are doing. It seems to be all about keeping the pubs open, but how can people social distance in a pub when they have had a few drinks?”

Pensioner Joan Jones added: “It is a very grim situation, and I don’t think the government knows what they are doing.

“One minute they are saying one thing, and then they say something else”.

The lockdown will see Llanelli classed as a ‘Health Protection Zone’ with restrictions similar to those currently in place in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Newport, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Merthyr Tydfil.

The areas in Llanelli subject to the new restrictions are: Bigyn, Bynea, Dafen, Elli ward, Felinfoel, Glanymor, Hendy, Hengoed, Llanegennech, Lliedi, Llwynhendy, Tyisha, and Swiss Valley.

According to the coronavirus data released by Public Health Wales on Thursday, the county of Carmarthenshire had a rate of 47.1 confirmed cases of coronavirus per 100,000 population, based on the seven days up to Wednesday afternoon – a level which has been rising for several days.

It is a higher rather rate than that seen in Newport when it was placed into lockdown on Monday.

In that seven day period, Carmarthenshire has seen 89 confirmed new cases of Covid-19, after 1,751 tests were carried out.

But it is thought that figure is skewed by a high number of cases in the Llanelli area.

Dr Quentin Sandifer, medical director at Public Health Wales, said there was a “high level of concern” regarding Llanelli, and added: “Looking at the position in Carmarthenshire, we do see quite a significant 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.”



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