Is Merthyr Tydfil the UK's new Covid-19 hotspot?

Is Merthyr Tydfil the UK’s new Covid-19 hotspot? Official data shows the Welsh borough now has an infection rate 27% higher than Leicester

  • 179.5 cases were diagnosed per 100,000 people in Merthyr Tydfil last week
  • The rate was 141.1 in Leicester, the first British place to have a ‘local lockdown’
  • Welsh officials claim the cluster of Covid-19 cases is ‘under constant review’
  • It’s fueled by an outbreak at Kepak meat-processing plant, health chiefs say

Merthyr Tydfil is the UK’s new coronavirus hotspot, according to official figures that show the Welsh borough currently has a worse infection rate than Leicester. 

Government statistics show 179.5 Covid-19 cases were diagnosed for every 100,000 people in Merthyr Tydfil in the week up to July 1.

By contrast, the rate is 141.1 in Leicester — which last week became the first place in Britain to have a ‘local lockdown’ imposed.

Welsh officials claim the cluster of cases, linked to an outbreak at a meat-processing plant, is ‘under constant review’. 

But health chiefs say no local lockdown is needed because there are no pockets of infection across the borough, which is home to around 60,000 people.

Population differences mean that although Merthyr Tydfil has a higher rate of infection, this translates to fewer actual positive tests than in Leicester, where the population is higher than 300,000 and is concentrated in a smaller urban area.

Welsh officials claim the cluster of cases in Merthyr Tydfil, linked to an outbreak at at the Kepak meat-processing plant, is ‘under constant review’

Figures from Public Health Wales — the country’s health body — show the outbreak in Merthyr Tydfil has grown massively in the past fortnight.

Only 10 cases for every 100,000 people were confirmed in the seven-day spell that ended July 1. 

PHW says the spike in cases is down to the outbreak at the Kepak meat plant, where 130 workers tested positive for Covid-19. 

Officials last week revealed they were confident ‘all the appropriate action’ had been taken to control the cluster.

And they claimed the rise in infections was down to an increase in testing, which ‘will inevitably identity new cases’. 

A spokesperson added: ‘This does not mean there has been a significant increase in the level of infection in the community. 

‘If we look at other data such as hospital admissions or bio surveillance indicators, there is no evidence of a big surge of infections in the wider community in Merthyr.’ 

Discussing the outbreak in Merthyr Tydfil, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: ‘Merthyr is a very small local authority.

‘So one incident with that number of positive cases has driven up their population count per head.

‘What they don’t have in Merthyr is sustained community transmission in the way they do have in Leicester.’

He said the outbreak in Leicester — home to 330,000 people — isn’t linked to one factory and exists in several different pockets.

Mr Gething added: ‘So that is why we are in a position where we don’t need to take those wider community measures.’

No other area of Wales currently has a level of infection anywhere near that of Merthyr Tydfil, according to data analysed by the BBC. 

It reported the next biggest outbreak was in Wrexham, which recorded 36 cases for every 100,000 people in the same week.  

Wrexham has also suffered a coronavirus outbreak at a food factory that is run by a firm that supplies supermarket giants including Sainsbury’s and Asda.

Redcar, a seaside town in North Yorkshire, and leafy Wokingham in Berkshire suffered the biggest week-on-week spikes in Covid-19 cases up to June 28, Public Health England (PHE) figures show. Coronavirus infections in Redcar and Cleveland jumped from 0.7 to 5.1 per 100,000 people, while in Wokingham they rose from 0.6 to 3

At least 237 Rowan Foods workers tested positive for the disease. Employees begged bosses to shut it down after being told of the spread.

Leicester has the second highest infection rate in England and Wales, while Bradford (45.8) and Barnsley (35.1) make up the worst five areas.  

It comes after MailOnline last week revealed 34 areas of England have seen Covid-19 infection rates spike in the past week.

Redcar, a seaside town in North Yorkshire, suffered the biggest week-on-week jump, going from 0.7 to 5.1 cases per 100,000 people. 

It was followed by Wokingham, a leafy commuter town in Berkshire where infections rose from 0.6 to 3, according to official statistics. 

The same data showed Leicester’s rate of new Covid-19 cases has ‘stabilised’ — only rising from 140.2 to 141.3 cases per 100,000 people. 

Other hotspots in Yorkshire — Bradford, Barnsley and Rochdale — saw infection rates drop. But there was a small increase in Sheffield, Bolton and Doncaster. 

It comes as an ex-minister said Leicester’s mayor were warned some manufacturing companies were breaching social distancing guidelines three months ago.

Sir Peter Soulsby, 71, and his Labour councillors received a letter from politicians in the Conservative Party warning them of the ‘shuttered premises’ in which textile workers were operating in amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Baroness Verma claimed it was an ‘open secret’ that factories were open and were risking the health of their workers and the local population in Leicester.

Hundreds of revellers escape locked-down Leicester and invade sleepy market town for a night on the booze as pubs reopen – leaving streets looking like a ‘war zone’

A historic market town 15 miles south of Leicester was turned into a ‘war zone’ after it was invaded by hundreds of people from the locked down city desperate for a night out with friends, it was revealed today.

Leicestershire Police were forced to impose an urgent dispersal order on Market Harborough when alcohol-fuelled disorder erupted on Saturday night.

It came as a busload of Leicester City fans who went up to Nottingham to watch the match with Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon gave themselves away after cheering wildly as their hero Jamie Vardy scored his 100th Premier League goal. Locals raised the alarm and they fled before the police arrived, according to The Sun.  

Police had already feared being overrun by out-of-town drinkers when pubs reopened on Saturday after Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby claimed that Leicester pub fans in search of a pint ‘could drive to Market Harborough’.

Leicester was put into a two week city-wide lockdown last week after a flood of new coronavirus cases emerged – three times higher than the next city – meaning that as the rest of England’s pubs reopened on July 4, those in Leicester will have to wait until July 18 at the earliest.

Electricity engineer Kevin Spicknall saw the trouble unfold from a cherry picker while working on ‘Super Saturday’ and described ‘carnage’ outside three pubs in the town as hundreds converged on the town centre.

He said: ‘Throughout the afternoon everything was lovely and settled. Then, at about 6pm, the pubs started to get really busy and it was noticeable they weren’t locals And from then on it became messy. There were fights, tussles with the police. One girl was beaten up by some people from Leicester. So the police decided to start clamping down and issued a dispersal order. It wasn’t extreme violence but there were angry young men acting like angry young men.

Leicestershire Police were forced to impose an urgent dispersal order on Market Harborough (pictured) when alcohol booze-fuelled disorder erupted on Saturday night.

Powers to send people away from the town centre were handed to police last night after ‘shameful and frightening’ scenes

Police had already feared being overrun by out-of-town drinkers when pubs reopened on Saturday after Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby claimed that Leicester pub fans in search of a pint ‘could drive to Market Harborough’

A group of Leicester fans took a coach to Nottingham to watch the match with Crystal Palace – but gave themselves up when they went wild when Jamie Vardy scored (pictured)

Mr Spicknall added: ‘The trains were busy but there were also lots of cars and taxis. I would say 200 to 300 arrived from 4pm onwards.

‘You could tell they were from Leicester – the accent is very different. It’s really noticeable to someone from Market Harborough when they speak to someone from Leicester. There were lots and lots of police – almost like you’d see at the football.’

Leicestershire Police were granted powers to force people to leave the town centre until 7am yesterday over the ‘shameful and frightening’ scenes.

A force spokesman said a man, 21, was detained on suspicion of assaulting another man, following reports a woman was attacked.

Locals condemned the thugs as ‘absolute disgraces’ and ‘absolutely outrageous’. One said on Twitter: ‘It was pandemonium last night in Harborough, with gangs of thugs out from Leicester. All pubs in Leicestershire should remain shut until the city opens. Harborough was like a war zone with all the lights and noise.’

Another added: ‘Half of Leicester was in Market Harborough for a pint.’ 

Pub giant Wetherspoons distanced itself from reports its Sugar Loaf pub was involved in the disturbances. 

Inspector Siobhán Gorman revealed there had been ‘incidents’ in the centre of the town, tweeting: ‘A dispersal order is in place. People are now starting to leave.’

Locals condemned the thugs as ‘absolute disgraces’ and ‘absolutely outrageous’. One added: ‘Put us back into lockdown and keep the idiots at home!’

Despite temporary laws being imposed in Leicester – which has the UK’s highest Covid-19 rate – there was no enforceable ban on travel out of the city.

Transport police at Leicester station advised locals not to travel but had no powers to stop them.

Market Harborough is just a 15-minute direct train ride away or a 20 minute drive from Leicester.

Local Lib Dem councillor Phil Knowles described the scenes as ‘desperately sad and unnecessary’. Last week, Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby told The Times, Leicester locals wanting a pint ‘could drive to Market Harborough’.

Harborough council leader Cllr Phil King said the town was not a ‘rough and tumble’ place.

He said: ‘I am immensely disappointed – words fail me. The people who were involved in this trouble need to have a long hard look at themselves in the mirror today and ask themselves why they did it.’ The Tory politician added: ‘It’s simply not acceptable that a minority should go out, frighten other paying, innocent customers and give the police more trouble to deal with.

‘I do not want to see a repeat of this type of late-night behaviour in Market Harborough town centre – it will not be tolerated.

‘These pillocks are putting it all at risk as we try to rebuild and re-boost our town centre economy.’

A spokesman for Leicestershire Police said: ‘A Section 34 Dispersal Order was authorised giving officers the power to require people to leave the area to reduce the risk of causing harassment, alarm or distress to the local community and to also reduce the risk of any further public disorder. ‘The order was in place between 11pm and 7am on Sunday.

‘Working with local licensees once the order was put in place the majority of those gathered left the area peacefully.

‘To prevent any further incidents of disruption a number of premises made the decision to close their doors early.

‘We continue to work closely with partners, business owners and the local community to address concerns around anti-social behaviour in the area

‘Reports were received of a woman having been assaulted in the town last night and enquiries are continuing into the allegation.

‘As a result of these enquiries a 21-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault after a man was subsequently injured. The suspect remains in police custody.’ 

Friends embrace in the streets of Soho, London on the second day since lockdown restrictions were eased in England

Sunday night saw revellers carry on from ‘Super Saturday’ – during which millions of pints were thought to have been poured

This is the scene a rave in Hackney, east London last night as people held illegal raves all over the country this weekend

Police were called to the public park in east London – but it is not clear if there were any arrests here or at another rave in the borough, which saw the area commander impose a dispersal order to try to break them up

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