Coronavirus rates are “a real cause for concern” in one part of Wales in particular, the Health Minister has warned.
Vaughan Gething, speaking during a health, care and sport committee meeting on Wednesday, said coronavirus in Gwent was “burning much brighter” than anywhere else in Wales.
He claimed the rise was being driven by infection rates in younger adults who often ended up passing the virus onto the more elderly and frail population.
According to figures from Public Health Wales, Blaenau Gwent has – by some distance – the highest coronavirus rate per 100,000 population at 415.1, based on a seven-day rolling average between November 16 and 22.
Infection rates are also increasing in neighbouring Newport, Caerphilly and Torfaen which recorded the most positive cases of anywhere in Wales on Tuesday with 78.
“In some parts of Wales were are seeing a more significant growth [in coronavirus]. For example, in the Gwent area, we are frankly seeing coronavirus burning much brighter than in other parts of the country, and that gives us real cause for concern,” said Mr Gething.
“It’s not just Blaenau Gwent we’re talking about here, but all the Gwent local authorities seeing a rise, and that’s driven largely by younger adults.
“We know that we cannot segment our population and keep young people away form older people because they often live together, and that’s not just ethnic minority households we’re talking about where different generations more commonly live together.
“I’m afraid we will see that rise [in infection rates in older people] coming through and higher hospital admissions as a result.”
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Another area of Wales with higher than average infection rates is Merthyr Tydfil where mass testing of the population is currently underway.
Mr Gething said around 1,000 people were tested each day for the first two days of the pilot on Saturday and Sunday, but there had now been a drop-off.
“The challenge is whether we are getting to all parts of the community and getting a significant understanding [of infection rates],” he added.
“We started off with the one [testing centre] and we are expecting more than a dozen extra ones. We’re also doing more pro-active testing around schools. So three high schools and the FE college will have a testing programme where they will provide testing around that site.
“And, to be fair, I spoke to the local government minister and education minister and the heads of those institutions late last week, and they were really positive and ‘can do’ about how they can promote testing around their sites.”
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Mr Gething said there were no plans for the Welsh Government to legislate to make it compulsory to have a test for Covid-19.
Meanwhile, the leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, Andrew Morgan, confirmed on Tuesday evening that plans were being put forward to mass test the population of the lower Cynon Valley following a significant rise in cases. You can read more about that story here.
On Twitter, Cllr Morgan said: “Significant work is underway on proposals to expand mass testing into lower Cynon Valley, covering around 27,000 residents at first. Details if this is to go ahead will be public in the next few days.”