Mobile testing for areas of Wrexham being considered as Council ramp up enforcement action – as public “will not put up with” rule breakers
Mobile testing units are being being considered for parts of Wrexham in a bid to get better data on the spread of the virus in the area.
At a media brief this morning with Wrexham Council, we pointed to the county borough being an outlier in terms of the rest of Wales for the rolling seven day cases per 100k benchmark figure, along with 23% of local total recorded cases through the pandemic being reported in the last 14 day rolling window up to the 14th of January.
Although there are some encouraging signs that perhaps the peak, for now, has passed locally, we asked if there has been a change in strategy on tackling the pandemic due to the recent large uptick.
Councillor Hugh Jones, who is the Lead Member on Wrexham Council heading up the pandemic response, explained: “There are a couple of new things we are looking at. Firstly in partnership with Public Health Wales and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, the possibility of a mobile testing station is being looked at.
That is not definite yet, but they’re looking at that as a possibility. They are looking at potential sites for mobile testing.
Council Chief Executive Ian Bancroft added, “The point of putting in a mobile testing centres is in areas where you don’t know if the virus is spreading within the community.
“That’s a differential. There has been calls for testing centres into areas where it’s already high.
“The point of a testing centre is to actually go into areas where we know we’re not getting high cases, or there is a high testing.”
Looking at the current colour coded MSOA map of Wrexham on the Public Health Wales website (top image) Wrexham is several shades of dark blue compared to the rest of Wales.
We asked if the areas of slightly lower cases, Bangor-on-Dee Overton and Penley as an example, could see the extra testing to investigate the depth of virus there.
Cllr Jones replied: “Exactly right. The idea is that it will move around the county borough to exactly those areas. That’s the plan.
“We’re working with our partners on such a plan.”
Widening out to other action being taken Cllr Hugh Jones said: “We are trying to be consistent with the message as it is really important.
“Because we’ve got such an effective Test Trace and Protect system, we’ve been able to identify that a significant amount of the infection is taking place within the domestic setting and within homes.
“We’ve been consistent in trying to get the message out to people to abide by the rules in terms of not mixing households, because that’s where the significant infection is taking place.
“I think gradually it is now beginning to show some response, because the trend in the figures, we are at last, seeing a reduction, but we are still significantly above where we need to be way, way above where we need to be.”
“In terms of the Welsh Government policy of strengthening regulations around supermarkets and retail premises, our public protection team this week has been stepping up its visits to premises to ensure that there is compliance – and by and large the majority of them thankfully are complying.
“We’ve had a number of incidents where members of the public have, thankfully, given us the heads up where there have been one or two issues and we’ve spoken to the relevant businesses and they’ve taken the appropriate action necessary.”
Referencing enforcement action, Cllr Hugh Jones added: “There have been some comments, probably on social media, about the level of the fines. I think the level of the fine always has to be proportionate to the level of the of the breach of the regulations.”
“People say ‘Why wouldn’t they have the £10,000 fines?’. I am not going to go into individual cases, because it would be inappropriate because there’s always a potential judicial process, but the reality is that where we believe that the message that we’ve been giving to people and the requests and the instructions that we’ve been given, the people are not being complied with, then we will issue appropriate level of fines commensurate with the level of breach of the regulations.”
“Fines are always the last resort, because fines mean that people have not complied. What we want is businesses to comply.”
“Wrexham Council have been particularly good at ensuring very quickly that any grants that come from the Welsh Government to businesses are paid with with a degree of efficiency and rapidity. So everything is in place to support businesses.
“I know, it’s very, very difficult for a lot of businesses, people are struggling, but where we can, we will ensure that everything we do from the finance department to support businesses will be done. In the same way, we would expect businesses to respond by complying with regulations.”
Wrexham Council Leader Mark Pritchard echoed the comments on enforcement and business support, adding: “The people of Wrexham are our eyes and ears, they have been in touch with us and telling us of businesses, individuals or companies who are not compliant.
“It is the people of Wrexham who will not put up with it, they have they’ve sacrificed so much during this difficult time and then some individuals and companies flout the regulations.”
“It is the people of Wrexham who are hitting back here. That’s why we’re having the prosecutions.
“What is being said out there on the streets is that we won’t put up with this. I think that is fantastic and long may it continue.”
“When we can gather the evidence they will be standing in the courts. Absolutely.”
“Our finance department has paid out over £50 million to local businesses, they have done a fantastic job. I would add that is without a single complaint. Fantastic.”
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