There are some early signs that Wales’ 17-day firebreak lockdown is starting to work, according to the nation’s chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton.
He said there were some “early signs of stability” as the country comes out of its firebreak lockdown.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he added: “We are coming out of the firebreak arrangements today.
“We always recognised that there would be a lag in terms of the indicators we look at as to how successful we have been.
“But we are seeing some early signs of stability and we are seeing that in mobility data, so we recognise that the people of Wales have been travelling significantly less during the firebreak, and we are starting to see that in some of the testing rates.”
New national measures to combat coronavirus came into force on Monday (November 9) following the end of the country’s 17-day firebreak lockdown.
Groups of up to four people can now meet up in cafes, pubs and restaurants while shops, gyms, hairdressers and places of worship will also reopen.
Supermarkets can again sell non-essential items while people will only be allowed to meet up inside homes with members of one other household if they have joined into a “bubble”.
The final week of Wales’s lockdown saw the number of Covid-19 hospital admissions surpass the levels of the previous peak of the virus in April.
The Welsh Government also faced calls to extend restrictions in areas of the south Wales valleys including Merthyr Tydfil – which became the worst-hit area of the UK last week with 741 cases per 100,000 people – as high levels of transmissions rose.
But First Minister Mark Drakeford said those figures were from people who had tested positive for coronavirus before the lockdown began.
“They are the figures of the people who are already entering the system before the firebreak lockdown began,” he told BBC Radio Wales. “I remember saying on the very first day we announced it that we wouldn’t see the benefit of the firebreak period during the time of the firebreak itself.
“We would see those figures begin to improve weeks after the firebreak period was over. What those figures demonstrate is just how important it has been to have this firebreak here in Wales, to turn back the tide of those rising number of cases, hospital admissions.
“I am confident that we will see the impact of what we have done over the last 17 days in the weeks that will now follow.”
He added that they would want to see the R number to come down below one again and to slow down the flow people into Welsh hospitals.
Adding: “There are a whole series of things we look at every day and we will be monitoring the impact of the last 17 days very carefully.”
Speaking about the concerns of the high number of cases in Merthyr Tydfil, Mr Drakeford said that there would be no further restrictions specifically for that area.
Figures from Sunday showed that Merthyr is still the local authority with the most cases per 100,000 over a seven-day average although the number has fallen to 523.8 , a drop from 610 on Saturday, and from more than 700 last week. The rates for your area are here.
Cases in your area:
Mr Drakeford said: “We are moving today in a national pattern of restrictions and that will apply in Merthyr, as elsewhere.
“Just a note of caution regarding Merthyr figures. It is the smallest county borough council in Wales and relatively small changes in raw numbers can drive quite big percentage changes. We have seen in just a couple of days those number come down from well over 700 to 500 and that is because it is inevitable in a small borough the numbers are volatile.
“We would like to see those number, of course, come down further and faster, and I think we have reasonable expectations in what we have seen in the last couple of days will become more visible for the days ahead.”
He added that the Welsh Government would be looking at “whole town testing” and any lessons learnt from mass testing in Liverpool would be acted on.
Dr Frank Atherton also said that although the firebreak lockdown was over, people’s behaviour still needed to change.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “As we come out of this firebreak we can’t simply go back to the behaviour we had before.
“We still need to work differently.”
When asked if people could be stopped travelling between England and Wales, Dr Atherton said that with England under national lockdown there was no reason to cross the border.
He added: “At the moment England is moving into its lockdown, so there’s no reason for people to travel from Wales into England.
“As England comes out of its lockdown we will absolutely have to reconsider how people travel.”