Powys residents and those along the Shropshire border are expecting to be impacted by the fresh ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown planned by the Welsh government – with a decision on the proposal expected on Monday.
Montgomeryshire MP Craig Williams has accused the Welsh Government of playing politics over the issue, while the area’s Member of the Welsh Parliament, Russell George, said it would unfairly penalise the public and stop business recovering.
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford, however has said that “doing nothing is not an option”, and that the lockdown would be for weeks rather than months.
The issue has been complicated by a travel ban proposed by Mr Drakeford’s government which was coming into force at 6pm today.
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It legally prevents people crossing the border into the country from areas of England in tiers two and three of the UK government’s coronavirus categories – a category Shropshire residents could soon find themselves in.
People living in both Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin have been warned that the rapid rise in cases mean both areas are heading from their current rating of ‘tier one’, into ‘tier two’ of the restrictions – meaning people would be barred from entering Powys or elsewhere in Wales.
Liz Noakes, Telford & Wrekin Council’s director of public health, said: “In the past week we have had 144 people diagnosed with Covid-19 in Telford & Wrekin – four weeks ago we had just 25.
“We are now at a tipping point and if the virus continues to grow at this rate, it appears inevitable we will see the next tier of restrictions here.”
Rachel Robinson, director of public health at Shropshire Council echoed the situation, saying there were 222 cases last week compared to just 29 in a week at the start of last month.
She added that 60 per cent of all cases are now not linked to a known outbreak.
Chain of infection
“Our cases are rising rapidly. The reality is further restrictions are just around the corner," she added.
"We need to get a handle on our infection rates, that is why we all need to step up and do everything we can to break the chain of infection across the county.”
Regarding the prospect of further restriction on Powys residents, and affecting those along the border, Mr Williams said: “The First Minister has previously stated that hyper-local restrictions would be ‘a very sensible approach’, so the introduction of a national circuit breaker will just smack of playing politics with this pandemic, just so that Mark Drakeford can demonstrate that he is being different from the approach which has been adopted by Boris Johnson and the UK Government. This just adds to the confusion.
“As a result of the tiered and risk-based approach which the Prime Minister has introduced, which is proportionate to the rate of infection in specific regions of England, the Welsh Government has announced a national circuit breaker regardless of the risk.
“The people of Mid Wales have bent over backwards to ensure that the rate of infection is as low as possible which is why Russell and I are calling on the Welsh Government to protect lives and livelihoods by having a laser-like focus on those areas that require intervention as opposed to its current blanket approach.
“This will allow the Mid Wales economy to still function while ensuring that transmission does not spiral out of control – a more sustainable and effective way of tackling outbreaks whilst simultaneously helping the wider local area to recover socially and economically.”
Mr George added: “For me, it is clear that a blanket national circuit breaker to combat coronavirus, such as the one that the Welsh Government may introduce on Monday will be disproportionate and damaging to the people of Powys’ lives and livelihoods.
“The health and the economy of our nation are intertwined and while safeguarding the health of those who are particularly vulnerable to this terrible virus is an absolute priority, measures have to be proportionate to the risk.
“Any national lockdown would unnecessarily penalise the people of Powys from seeing their families and loved ones which would in turn have a detrimental effect on people’s health.
"It will also prevent businesses, especially in the tourism and hospitality sector, from recovering from a disappointing summer season so it is vital that the Welsh Government’s decisions to implement so-called “circuit breakers” are proportionate to the threat and