COVID-19 restrictions have been tightened in Bangor following a steep rise in cases.
As of Saturday night (10th October), new lockdown measures have been introduced in eight wards – Garth, Hirael, Menai, Deiniol, Marchog, Glyder, Hendre and Dewi.
Public health officials say two thirds of all new cases in Gwynedd this week are in the city – with numbers expected to rise in the coming days.
Under the new restrictions, similar to those introduced in other parts of Wales:
- People are not allowed to enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education;
- People will only be able to meet people they don’t live with outdoors for the time being. They will not be able to form, or be in, extended households, with the exception of temporary bubbles for single people and single parents.
They’re in addition to the other nationwide restrictions:
- All licensed premises must stop selling alcohol at 10pm;
- Everyone over 11 must wear face coverings in indoor public areas.
Similar countywide measures were brought in last week in four areas of North Wales – Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham.
It’s the second time that more localised restrictions have been introduced by the Welsh Government, after they were introduced in Llanelli last month.
It’s believed the spike in cases in Bangor is closely linked to young people and the city’s student population. The infection rate stands at around 400 cases per 100,000 people.
The new measures are not being introduced across the rest of Gwynedd for the time being – including the Pentir ward of Bangor, which includes Ysbyty Gwynedd.
According to the Betsi Cadwaladr health board, cases at the city’s hospital are still low – with a similar situation reported at community hospitals in North West Wales.
The Welsh Government says it’s keeping a close eye on the situation in Gwynedd – particularly the Arfon and Dwyfor areas – following talks on Saturday.
Gwynedd Council says the incidence rate in the local authority area ranges from 152 cases per 100,000 in Arfon to 55 cases per 100,000 in Dwyfor and 18 cases per 100,000 in Meirionnydd.
First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said socialising was largely to blame for the Bangor outbreak.
He added: ”We have worked closely with the local authority, the police in North Wales and public health experts to assess the need for local restrictions. We all agree about the need to take targeted action in Bangor.”
”We want to discuss the wider situation in Gwynedd in more detail…to decide whether we need to extend local restrictions more widely across the county area.”
”While large parts of Wales are now subject to local restrictions, I want to be clear – this is not a national lockdown. These are a series of local restrictions to respond to rises in cases in individual areas.”
”It’s always difficult to make the decision to impose restrictions but we hope that these measures will make help to control the spread of the virus. It is important we all work together and support each other. This isn’t just about protecting ourselves, it’s about protecting each other.”
The Welsh Government said it would keep the new local restrictions under regular review – they will be enforced by local authorities and police.
Earlier on Friday, the First Minister gave a concession – allowing children living under local lockdown measures to leave their area to play sport, following an outcry over regulations.
Gwynedd Council said residents living in the rest of the county or further afield are not able to enter Bangor without a valid reason such as travelling for work for those who cannot work from home or attending a health appointment.
School pupils and students will be able to travel in and out of the affected areas to attend their school, college or university.
The city’s shops – including the retail parks and Tesco supermarket on Caernarfon Road – remain open for local residents.
People living outside the city should make every effort to avoid visiting Bangor shops – including the retail areas on the outskirts of the city – for the time being, and only do so if they are buying essential items where there is no reasonable alternative.
However, according to the county council, in most cases it would be expected that there are alternative options, even if this involves travelling a little further than normal. Signage has been installed on all the main routes into the city to ensure that the public are aware of the restrictions.
Council leader Dyfrig Siencyn said the local authority fully supported the measures: ”Acting now will help slow the rapid increase in positive cases in the city, break the chain of transmission and protect Bangor residents as well as the wider Gwynedd public.”
”We fully appreciate that this action will have an impact on the people and businesses of the city. But by taking these steps now, we will hopefully be able to avoid stricter and more disruptive measures further down the line and get Bangor back to normal as soon as possible.”
”Whilst these measures are currently limited to Bangor due to the rapid increase in cases in the city, there can be no room for complacency for any Gwynedd resident.”
”We must all play our part in following the national Covid-19 guidelines to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the wider community. By doing so, we will also hopefully be able to avoid the need for similar measures for the rest of Gwynedd.”
Dr Giri Shankar, Public Health Wales’ incident director for the COVID-19 response, added: ”It has never been more important for everyone living in the communities of Bangor to follow the advice and guidance of the agencies responsible for managing this developing situation.”
”Please trust us – trust in our messaging, in our communication to you. It could save lives.”
”We are aware of misinformation circulating in the public domain, so please, only use trusted sources of information from your local authority, Public Health Wales, local health board and Welsh Government.”
Debra Hickman, acting director of nursing at the Betsi Cadwaladr health board said: ”Cases at Ysbyty Gwynedd and Wrexham Maelor Hospital, and our community hospitals in the East and West area remain low at present.”
”However, we must not let this lull us into a false sense of security. We know there is a two-week time lag between a rise in community cases and hospital admissions.”
”We continue to ask people to think long and hard about whether a trip to one of our hospitals is absolutely necessary. Visiting on our wards remains restricted except for some limited circumstances.”
”Supporting vulnerable family or friends, or accessing healthcare services, remain the only reasons anyone other than staff should be accessing the site.”