CONWY and Denbighshire will be in lockdown for at least 14 days before restrictions are eased or even stricter measures are imposed.
In a frank discussion with North Wales media this afternoon, the Welsh Government’s Health Minister Vaughan Gething said that there is not “a one way escalator” leading out of lockdown or to more strict measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Gethin said that data would determine when lockdowns were lifted in Flintshire, Wrexham, Conwy and Denbighshire, but that nothing would change until a review after 14 days from Thursday.
Further reviews will then take place every seven days with the aim of seeing a sustained fall to a rate below 50 cases per 100,000 people, but ideally much lower than that.
He said it was likely lockdown would be lifted first in Caerphilly and Newport before here in the north.
Mr Gething said: “Well its 14 days for the initial review, and then we are going to look a the restrictions on a regular basis at lease every seven days. So on a Thursday we will have a regular review of the action that we’re taking. After the 14 days we need to consider do we need to continue the action.”
In the latest seven-day rate figures, the number was 53.8 cases per 100,000 in Flintshire and 43.4 in Wrexham.
The latest daily figures for new cases in Wales, saw 21 new cases in Flintshire, 18 in Wrexham, 10 in Conwy and seven in Denbighshire.
Mr Gething added: “We are looking to see a sustained fall below the 50, but actually I think we want to go below 50 as well, because its still fairly high in the 40s. Places with rates in the 30s per 100,000 are still on our watch list for concerns. So it depends on the amount of confidence we have about the sustained level of the reduction.
“We will run through that first probably in Caerphilly and Newport because they are hovering around 50. If we get it below 50, and sustaining below 50, we will then consider the sustained nature of that fall.”
He said it was impossible to give a date for when the four North Wales counties would be able to come out of lockdown.
“I can’t give an exact date, its more than just a date we need to rely on to make choices both to have local restrictions and then to ease out of them,” he said. “But that Caerphilly has seen this significant fall in cases should provide us with some hope that local restrictions can and do work.”
He added that in the future, some areas could be exempt from local lockdowns.
He used the example that if there was an outbreak in Bangor or Caernarfon then communities in rural Meirionnydd, although also in Gwynedd, may not need to go into lockdown.
But Mr Gething also warned that the next stage out of local lockdown might not be an easing of restrictions.
He said that, after the two or three weeks needed to see the impact of measures, decisions would me made as to “whether we need to carry on with those measures or whether we’re in a position to think what might come next, up or down”.
He added: “The challenge though is still its not as simple as saying this is the next stage. It depends on the pattern of infection in each area, about whether its travel, about whether its an importation of cases, about whether as we see at present its really about local communities and whether people are meeting others indoors.
“We need to understand, not just the figures, but the understanding locally of what’s diriving the infection or leading to a reduction.
“The honest truth is, I can’t give a hard and fast answer ‘here is the next stage’ in either increasing or reducing restrictions because so much of it depends on the local context.”
He said it was key for people to understand that behaviour that would be quite normal previously was, at the moment, a risk.
He said events like stag and hen parties, pub crawls, and a day at the races were “just laden with risk”.
Mr Gething added: “All those things are examples of behaviour that now come with increased risk to your family, your friends, and the community you live in. I think most people in every part of the country can recognise something they might see locally in normal times but now need to pause and think ‘I think that’s what we’re not supposed to do now because that’s a greater risk to me and my loved ones and the town, village or city I live in”.
“We’ve seen the spread has gone from young adults to older adults. It isn’t just the young adults that are infecting their parents or grandparents, it’s entirely possible that there are older adults who are not following the rules, either from complacency or a deliberate choice, and the examples we have given have shown that.
“I think people should understand that the sort of behaviour we’re talking about has greater risk and its up to us to make choices otherwise the choices from the government are more likely to come with more restrictions to people’s freedoms.”