The Welsh Government is considering a local lockdown on Anglesey to prevent a coronavirus outbreak at a meat processing plant on the island spreading further.
The news comes as it was confirmed that a total of 158 people have now been diagnosed at the 2 Sisters chicken processing plant in Llangefni, Anglesey.
Public Health Wales said that 83 more people linked to the meat plant had tested positive as of 3pm on Sunday – in addition to the 75 who had tested positive as of 3pm on Saturday.
Dr Christopher Johnson, Consultant in Health Protection at Public Health Wales said: “Since we commenced targeted testing last Thursday, over 400 members of staff have provided samples so far. Testing of employees continues, and it is likely that some additional cases will be identified in coming days.
“The increase in cases is as we anticipated when a focused track and trace programme is implemented, and does not mean that the spread of infection is increasing.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford had initially said that he thought local lockdowns were unlikely to be used in Wales as he considered them unfair and hard to enforce.
But in recent weeks both he and Health Minister Vaughan Gething have indicated they are likely to be part of the Welsh Government’s plans if there are localised outbreaks in future.
And now it appears that they are being considered in north Wales right now just as the First Minister announced a loosening of restrictions across the nation from Monday with shops reopening.
Economy Minister Ken Skates told ITV that “we’ve not ruled that out” a local lockdown on Anglesey because “it would be more desirable than pushing the entire country back into a full lockdown.”
He added: “In order to deal with these localised spikes it’s essential that all public bodies and employers work together immediately to test, to track, and to protect people from further fallout from the virus.
“We have in Wales a very successful test, track and protect system that has been rolled out at a local authority level.
“That enabled us to intervene instantly such as that which we’ve seen on Anglesey.”
There have been coronavirus outbreaks linked to meat plants reported across the UK and Europe. In Germany, 1,000 infections have been linked to a slaughterhouse in the north-western region of Bielefeld.
In Wales, there have been outbreaks at Rowan Foods in Wrexham and 2 Sisters in Llangefni. And there has been an outbreak at a Yorkshire plant that supplies bacon to Asda where 150 staff have been infected.
New figures released on Sunday by Public Health Wales show that there have been 100 new cases of Covid-19 reported to it in Wales in the last 24 hours. These will not include most of the new cases related to the Llangefni plant, which are likely to be recorded in Monday’s figure.
Sunday’s rise of 100 is the largest hike in the daily figures since May 26th when there were 146 cases and takes the total number of lab-confirmed infections Wales has seen to 15,126.
In total 30 of the people newly diagnosed with Covid-19 live in Anglesey and 18 in Gwynedd. Eight live in Flintshire, six in Denbighshire and 6 in Conwy. There were also 17 people who address is currently unknown.
Away from north Wales, there were no cases reported in Swansea, Bridgend, Newport, Caerphilly, Torfaen, the Vale of Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire and Merthyr Tydfil.
In its statement on Sunday, Dr Johnson of Public Health Wales said: “I would like to thank the workforce and wider community for their swift co-operation with this test and trace process. This rapid response is providing vital information to help minimise the further spread of COVID-19 locally.
“We must remember that COVID-19 has not gone away. Incidents like this show the potential for pockets of asymptomatic undiagnosed infection in the community, highlighting the importance of the adherence to social distancing and hygiene measures.
“The deployment of rapid test and trace facilities has helped identify this situation and we will continue to keep control measures in place to bring the outbreak to a rapid conclusion.
“It therefore remains essential that all members of the public, including employees of 2 Sisters Food Group and their close contacts, continue to recognise the vital role they have in preventing the spread of Coronavirus, to help keep Wales safe.
“Employees and contractors from the processing plant have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days to help limit the further spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), following confirmation of multiple cases in the workforce.
“Employees who test positive are being contacted through the Test, Trace and Protect process and provided with additional advice for themselves, household and other contacts.
“I wish to remind everyone that if you or a member of your household develop symptoms of cough, fever or change in sense of taste or smell, you must book a test for COVID-19 you should do so promptly to help control the spread of infection.
“We urge everyone to always observe social distancing guidelines – that’s staying two metres away from others – washing hands regularly, and working from home if they can.
“Similarly social distancing measures must be followed. When travelling you should also avoid car sharing with people outside your household, and ensure social distancing on entry and exit from your workplace.
“If you are meeting members of one other household, as permitted by the guidelines, you must stay outdoors and stay local.
“To provide additional clarity, the Food Standards Agency advise that it is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. It is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging.”
Public Health Wales said it continues to work in partnership with the employer, Anglesey and Gwynedd Councils, the Health and Safety Executive, the Food Standards Agency, and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to manage the incident.