ONE month into Wales' latest coronavirus lockdown, there are clear signs that the swingeing restrictions introduced at very short notice just days before Christmas are slowing the spread of the virus.

Cases and case rates have fallen considerably since the hastily announced closure of non-essential retail, pubs, leisure centres, gyms and other premises on December 20, when the impact of a new variant of Covid-19 forced the hand of the Welsh Government, UK Government and other devolved administrations.

Stricter limits on gatherings, outdoor activities and travel were also among the lockdown measures that reappeared, while face-to-face learning has been severely limited. 

Individuals and families in Wales and other parts of the UK have in the past month continued to pay the price of the march of the virus in the loss of loved ones, many of whom will already have become infected before the great pre-Christmas shutdown was enacted.

Our hospitals continue too, to be extremely busy, with the numbers of coronavirus patients in beds - critical care and otherwise - having topped those from the first wave last spring.

Though cases and case rates have fallen considerably in many parts of Wales and the rest of the UK in the past couple of weeks, it will take some while yet for the many very sick coronavirus patients to work through the system.

And though cases are falling, more than 1,000 a day are still being confirmed across Wales by Public health Wales, so sadly, many more will need hospital care in the coming weeks and months, and many more will succumb to the virus.

With these things in mind therefore, despite the apparent progress, it may be far too soon - given theadded factor of the propensity of the new variant of coronavirus to spread even more easily than the original - to consider huge changes to those restrictions.


On December 18, the day before First Minister Mark Drakeford announced the latest set of lockdown restrictions, taking by surprise countless thousands of us who had not completed our Christmas shopping, many parts of Wales were in the midst of a worsening deluge of coronavirus cases.

That day, 694 cases of coronavirus in Gwent were confirmed by Public Health Wales, out of 2,801 across Wales.

The latest available rolling weekly case rate for Wales was 562.2 per 100,000 population, but the situation across much of Gwent was far worse. In Blaenau Gwent that weekly rate was 863.1 per 100,000, and in Newport it was 837.9. The rate in Caerphilly was approaching 800 and in Torfaen, 750.

More than one-in-four people in Blaenau Gwent and Newport who were tested for coronavirus in the week to December 13 returned a positive result, while in Caerphilly and Torfaen it was around one-in-five.

The following day, December 19, more than 3,000 new cases were confirmed Wales-wide, with 750 of these in Gwent, and case rates rose again.

The December 20 lockdown also forced a rethink on the long heralded plans to allow people limited scope for family get-togethers over the Christmas period.

The much-heralded 'five days of Christmas' plan had already been scaled down by then, but it shrank further, to just Christmas Day, with no overnight stays - and the overriding message was for families not to meet others at all if possible.

The measures brought in across Wales on December 20 were replicated across the UK with minor differences in terms of the tightness of restrictions.

As has been the way with coronavirus since it emerged more than a year ago in China, it has taken time for lockdown restrictions to have an effect.

Christmas mingling - however minimised - and the effect of the more infectious new variant Covid-19 have been potential factors in limiting its effectiveness.

But there have been signs across the UK, particularly in the past 10 days, that case numbers are falling.

This is true in many parts of Wales, reflected not least in the rolling weekly case rate. Yesterday it was reported that this had fallen to 295.2 per 100,000 for the week to January 14, the latest available, down from 417 a week earlier.

Rolling weekly case rates have fallen consideably too in Gwent. By January 12 they were already well down on those aforementionmed pre-Christmas figures, and in the past week they have come down again.

On January 12, the Argus reported that Torfaen's rolling weekly case rate - for the week ending January 7 - was 520.4 per 100,000, while both Blaenau Gwent's and Newport's were close to 450.

But Torfaen's rolling rate for the week ending January 14, reported yesterday, was 274.6. Newport's was 310.3, and Blaenau Gwent's 196.1.

The latter - the fifth lowest in Wales - is the most eye-catching, compared to December 18, when it was the third highest in Wales.

Even areas like Wrexham and Flintshire, hit harder than anywhere else in Wales by the new variant of coronavirus, are seeing case rates falling.

The death rate of course, remains the most sobering measure of the toll exacted by coronavirus, and evidence shows there is a 'lag' of around three weeks before this begins to fall, compared to cases and rates of infection.

In the month since the latest lockdown was announced, almost 1,300 coronavirus deaths have been confirmed by Public Health Wales, some 30 per cent of the overall total in Wales.

Of these, 245 have been in Gwent, out of 810 overall (30 per cent).

The nature of coronavirus means there will likely be more rises and falls in cases and rates in Wales and across the UK, in the coming months, even as the roll-out of vaccines builds a measure of protection in increasing numbers of people.

Lockdown, whatever its severity, and with ongoing consequences for the economy and daily life, is likely to be with us for some time yet.

Case numbers and rates are heading in the right direction, but they must fall much further still before restrictions begin to be eased to any great extent.

And we all still have a crucial role to play in ensuring that time comes sooner rather than later.