On Tuesday, September 8 at 6pm, Caerphilly became the first local authority in Wales to be placed under a local lockdown.
It was announced by Health Minister Vaughan Gething following a steep rise in coronavirus cases in the region over the previous seven days.
The spike was blamed primarily on a breakdown in social distancing indoors, particularly within people’s own homes.
As part of the restrictions, which still stand, people cannot enter or leave the county borough of Caerphilly without a “reasonable excuse”.
Meetings with friends and family indoors are also banned, as well as overnight stays.
And everyone aged over 11 is now required to wear face coverings in shops – marking the first time it became mandatory in Wales.
Since this announcement, five other local authorities in Wales have been placed under the same restrictions, while many new Wales-wide measures have been introduced such as the 10pm closure of pubs and bars.
But following a fortnight of local lockdown in Caerphilly, there are some very real signs that the measures are reducing infection rates.
Caerphilly Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population (seven-day rolling total between Sept 6 and 23)
At its peak, on September 11, the county was reporting 96.6 cases of the virus per 100,000 population. However, fast forward to September 23 and the latest figures show that it has been reduced to 37.6 per 100,000.
To put that into perspective, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf are now recording 137.6 and 123.5 per 100,000 respectively, while neighbouring Blaenau Gwent has shot up to 136 cases per 100,000 over the last 24 hours.
Caerphilly is also reporting much fewer Covid cases per day, with 16 recorded on September 23 compared to 34 on September 10. It wasn’t long ago that the authority was frequently reporting the most cases of anywhere in Wales. That now appears to be a distant memory.
Dr Giri Shankar, incident director at Public Health Wales said: ” It is too early to give a detailed picture of the effect of restrictions on the borough of Caerphilly.
“We are cautiously optimistic and hope the rates will come down further and will continue to monitor the situation very closely.”
Dr Hefin David, MS for Caerphilly, said he had been greatly impressed with people’s strict adherence to the local lockdown rules in the region.
“I live in the constituency and live with these restrictions the same as everyone else,” he said,
“So I’m witnessing first-hand that people are taking it very seriously and are abiding by the rules as set out by the Welsh Government.
“I’m really impressed that people in my community have embraced this and have committed themselves to getting this back under control.”
Dr David said he was in favour of the local lockdown earlier this month after a minority of people decided to flout the restrictions.
“Statistics showed that cases were on the rise and that was attributed to a breakdown in social distancing indoors, particularly within households in Caerphilly,” he recalled.
“Therefore we needed to re-find the discipline we’d had during the six months of the full lockdown.”
But now he has seen for himself that residents and business owners are taking a stand against the virus.
“I have taken my children shoe shopping in Caerphilly town and there’s very high discipline in those shops,” he added.
“Face masks are being worn, hand sanitiser is there on the way in and on the way out, and everyone was embracing that.
“All you can ask is for people to commit to the rules as they’ve been advised by the clinical experts.”
Dr David said he had spoken to the chief executive of Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Judith Paget, who said she still expected a rise in hospital admissions due to a delay in infections making people severely unwell.
“Across the health board, when I spoke to the chief executive yesterday [Tuesday], there were six Covid hospital admissions and one in ICU. We are expecting that to rise, but the actions people are taking will limit that rise,” he added.
A review of lockdown measures in Caerphilly will take place on Thursday, September 24 and every seven days thereafter.
“Given the announcement from the First Minister and the Prime Minister yesterday [Tuesday], I don’t anticipate these restrictions being lifted tomorrow [Thursday] given the wider picture across the whole of the UK,” Dr David said.
“What I will be doing, however, is after every seven days updating people via my social media as to the changes that will happen. And I will be making the case for Caerphilly to the Welsh Government.”
Cllr Philippa Marsden, leader of Caerphilly Council, was similarly glowing about the public’s response to the local lockdown.
She said: “I would like to thank each and every resident across the county borough for their ongoing efforts to help control the spread of this deadly virus. None of us wanted restrictions imposed on our daily lives, but it’s been great to see the resilience and determination of the community response.
“The vast majority of people across the county borough are co-operating with the rules and we are seeing high levels of compliance in terms of the use of face masks, social distancing, adhering to the travel restrictions and Test, Track and Protect protocols.
“Our partners in Gwent Police are also reporting the same positive picture overall across the county borough. Our own enforcement teams have been working closely with shops, pubs, supermarkets and other premises to ensure everyone is aware of their obligations.
“We are working hard to support and encourage the local business community, but it is important to note that we also have powers of enforcement if required.
“The co-operation and compliance shown by local people so far has simply been amazing, but it is important that we all continue with our efforts to combat the spread of this virus and protect our community.”