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9 Nov, 2020 10:08

Welsh government ends firebreak lockdown, even as Covid pandemic cause of concern in many areas

Welsh government ends firebreak lockdown, even as Covid pandemic cause of concern in many areas

A 17-day firebreak lockdown has come to an end in Wales despite some of the highest regional infection rates in the UK and calls for an extension of restrictions.

On Monday, Wales’s 17-day lockdown came to an end and a new set of national measures came into effect.

The decision not to extend the lockdown has come under considerable criticism, because Covid rates in some parts of Wales are the highest in the country.

Dr Giri Shankar of Public Health Wales told Sky News, “We’ve always recognized that it’s a balancing act of trying to control the Covid harm versus the non-Covid harms.” 

Shankar stressed that people must respect social distancing as the new measures – which sees pubs, gyms, hairdressers, and other non-essential businesses reopen – come into place. 

The loosening of restrictions also means people can travel around Wales, including moving from high-risk areas to low-risk areas. 

Covid infections remain very high in the South Wales valleys. Early last week, infection rates in Merthyr Tydfil were the highest in the country, at 741 cases per 100,000 people. This has subsequently dropped to 639.9 per 100,000. 

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Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the National Assembly, said, “I just don’t understand why the Welsh government won’t outline what action they’re going to take to ensure that the number of Covid cases in Merthyr Tydfil – which is the highest number per 100,000 in the UK – doesn’t get any worse.”  

Overall infection rates in Wales remain higher than England, with 272.8 cases per 100,000 in the past seven days in Wales compared to 243.2 cases per 100,000 in England.

During the two-and-a-half-week firebreak period, people were not allowed to meet with anyone they didn’t live with, non-essential businesses were closed, and the school half-term holiday was extended.  

The four nations of the UK have taken different approaches to tackling the second wave of the coronavirus. The end of the lockdown in Wales comes as England starts the fifth day of a four-week Covid lockdown.

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