3PM - Tuesday, September 15

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council:

The rise in confirmed coronavirus cases locally over the last 14 days (296 at the time of writing) has quite clearly shown that the virus is very much still in circulation in our communities. 

This has obviously been a concerning trend that the Council, along with our numerous partner agencies and organisations, is working hard to stop in order to avoid a local lockdown situation - as has recently been seen in Caerphilly.

Given the numerous data sets and figures that are available, I have seen some misunderstanding over the situation regarding the rate of testing in relation to positive cases. 

Whilst it is true that more tests are being conducted now, and this would expect to yield an increase in positive results, the percentage of confirmed cases must be taken in the context of the number of testing episodes – so if the number of tests were to increase by 10% and the number of positive cases demonstrated a proportionate or similar increase, then this would be expected; however, if the number of tests increase by 50% and the number of positive returns increase by 300%, then it would show a much wider issue of increased transmission – this is the current picture in RCT.

It is vitally important that we all stay disciplined and think about how our own actions, both in terms of keeping ourselves safe and helping to protect others, can contribute to controlling the virus within our County.  On Thursday, September 10, RCT Council and Merthyr Tydfil CBC (MTCBC) issued a joint statement asking all residents to take immediate voluntary action to avoid the need for a formal local lockdown in both Counties.

The first voluntary action was a request for residents to appropriately wear (covering your mouth and nose) a three-layered face mask or covering whilst in work, at shops or supermarkets, or any other indoor or crowded outdoor public space. 

This advice is strongly recommended for those who are able to wear a face mask without a reasonable excuse or exemption. Please note that the Welsh Government have subsequently mandated that residents or visitors in Wales MUST wear a face covering in shops and indoor public areas from Monday, September 14, and again this applies to where it is safe to do so and an individual is able to wear a covering. 

Whilst the requirement to wear a mask or covering indoors is a Wales-wide measure, the Council is still strongly recommending that residents of RCT wear a mask or covering in outdoor public settings where you are likely to come into contact with others and social distancing is difficult to maintain.

To minimise contact with others, residents are asked to only use public transport for essential purposes – including travelling to access education, employment, for essential medical appointments, or for shopping for basic provisions.  We are also directly appealing to employers and employees within our County to make any necessary provisions and allow their staff to work from home wherever possible.

Over the weekend, the UK/Serco-run testing centres, which included the temporary testing site currently operating at site of the Council Offices in Clydach Vale, were initially cut back to just 60 tests per site across the whole of the UK.

It is hugely frustrating to see that the supposedly “world-beating” testing system run by the UK Government still does not have the capacity to meet the demand in testing, despite the 500,000 tests a day target set for the end of October. I have to extend a huge thanks to the outstanding joint effort made by a number of agencies in Wales to secure 420 tests on Saturday and 600 tests on Sunday at the Clydach Vale site, with officers from the Council, Cwm Taf Morgannwg, Public Health Wales, Welsh Government and the Welsh Ambulance service working through the night to find a solution and make the capacity available.

I am already aware of a number of reports from residents struggling to book a test in a local testing centre and it is absolutely vital that capacity is increased to further develop our understanding of the prevalence of the virus in communities and identify and clusters that may exist to inform the test and trace operation. It is important that you only book a test if you are displaying symptoms of Covid-19.

The temporary testing centre at Clydach Vale will be in place until Thursday, September 17 – more details are available here.

Residents may have also seen the news that Premises Improvement Notices have been served to seven supermarkets in the County after Officers from the Council’s Public Health and Protection team found a variety of breaches of the guidelines around minimising the risk of transmission to staff and customers. 

Whilst I am pleased to confirm that all seven have now been found to comply with the respective guidelines, the Council did have to issue a Premises Closure Notice at a bar in Pontypridd after a number of contraventions were recorded on CCTV.  Further enforcement action has been taken at a licensed premises in Tonypandy (Closure), whilst a further bar in Pontypridd and a barbers in Tonypandy have also been issued with Improvement Notices. 

Officers have visited around 50 licensed premises over the weekend and further enforcement action – either through Improvement or Closure Notices are likely to be issued after the evidence is reviewed.  This isn’t a matter of being difficult, this is taking action to keep customers, staff and residents safe and prevent unnecessary spreading of the virus in our communities, and Council Officers will have my support in any instances where such action is required. 

With confirmed cases continuing to rise in our County Borough, I will be meeting with Welsh Government Ministers later this evening (Tuesday) to discuss whether or not further intervention measures are required, based on the latest data available.  The message in the meantime remains clear, however – we all have a responsibility to adhere to the guidelines, regulations and advice to keep ourselves and others safe.

Posted on Tuesday 15th September 2020

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