Wales’ chief medical officer has said an all-Wales approach to easing lockdown restrictions would be his preferred approach as infection rates continue to fall.
Dr Frank Atherton, speaking at the Welsh Government press conference on Wednesday afternoon, said he and his colleagues had “learnt a lot” from the local lockdowns first introduced in September, 2020.
Caerphilly county borough was the first of several local authorities to be placed under a local lockdown on September 8 following a huge spike in Covid-19 cases. No-one was allowed to leave the county, friends and family were not allowed to meet indoors and extended households could no longer meet up.
While such measures did have some impact in reducing coronavirus cases, Dr Atherton admitted that the virus moved so quickly around the country that local lockdowns failed to contain the spread effectively enough.
Wales’ seven-day infection rate has now dropped to 203.8 cases per 100,000, which is substantially lower than the 650 cases seen in mid-December.
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Commenting on whether local lockdowns could be reintroduced as case rates fell, Dr Atherton said: “It’s something that we always keep under review. We do have local incident management teams at local level giving advice on a daily basis to Welsh Government.
“My personal view is that we are better sticking with a Wales-wide approach. We are geographically a large place but population wise we are only three million people.
“Caerphilly was the first area to go into a local restriction and we have learnt a lot from them since. One thing we learnt was that things move about very quickly around the country. We have talked before about whether there should be a north-south division and we’ve seen the virus moved very quickly between the two.
“I think [the virus] moves so quickly that an all-Wales approach, to my mind, remains the best hope for us.”
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Dr Atherton said the ‘R’ rate across Wales – which measures how fast the virus is spreading, was now below one, between 0.7 and 0.9.
“All this tells us that transmission of the infection is slowing and the size of the current outbreak is shrinking,” he said.
“This is positive news but we are not out of the woods yet. At more than 200 cases per 100,000 people, levels of coronavirus are still very high.
“And the impact continues to be felt across the NHS – services remain under sustained pressure, although there are some signs that the number of people being admitted with coronavirus symptoms is beginning to stabilise.
“We are also seeing some small but early signs of an easing in demand for critical care. But we have yet to see the falls in community transmission work their way through to the NHS.”