Coronavirus: Merthyr Tydfil braced for lockdown

By Catherine Evans
BBC News

Merthyr High Street
Image caption,
Merthyr's High Street remained busy as the town faces a possible local lockdown

It seemed like business as usual in Merthyr Tydfil's busy High Street on a sunny Wednesday afternoon.

Shoppers navigated yellow arrows and 2m spacing signs on the pavement - some wearing face masks, others stopping to chat with friends.

But as coronavirus cases rise across Valleys towns, Merthyr is braced to follow Caerphilly into local lockdown.

Businesses in the town - already suffering huge financial losses - are warning they will struggle to survive.

The student

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Engineering student Summer Powell says the prospect of lockdown is 'nerve-wracking'

Engineering student Summer, 16, from Treharris, said: "I think if they are rising we should have another lockdown. It is nerve-wracking.

"Hopefully everyone starts listening and staying safe."

She disagreed with claims young people socialising and not observing social distancing were to blame for the rise in cases.

"I think everyone's doing really well. I've not been close to anyone that I've not bubbled with. And in school they're going to do bubbles so you can't be with anyone who's not in your class," she added.

The care worker

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Care worker Diane Jones says young people are showing a lack of care for older people

Diane Jones, who is a care worker for young people, said: "As for the social distancing I don't think it is happening anymore, the youngsters just don't care.

"It's worrying for the likes of me - I'm 60 years old now and coming into town like this is dangerous.

"The youngsters are just gathering together and they're not even thinking about us."

She said testing procedures had "totally gone out of the window", but added: "I'm lucky where I work. We get tested every week because we work with young people."

The shop owners

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Shop owner Mohammed Iqbal says a lot of businesses will be forced to close if there is a local lockdown

Mohammed Iqbal, 70, who owns IQ Clothing on High Street, said his business would have to close if a local lockdown was announced.

"Regarding the lockdown in Caerphilly and this rumour that it may be in Merthyr Tydfil as well, it is going to affect not only my business, but all the businesses around us.

"There's nothing we can do. We'd just have to close."

Although most follow the guidelines in shops and on the street, he said people socialising was his biggest worry.

"Most people are following regulations, no doubt, but some didn't bother. In our shop, and most of the shops you go to, we have these facilities here - we've got sanitizer we've got screens, we've got masks if someone comes in.

"But people who go to pubs or parties, that's the main concern to be honest with you."

Ann Evans, 59, who owns the town's Discount Clearance shop, said people were starting to panic buy essential items, as they did in the national lockdown: "They've been buying lots of loo rolls again.

"People have come in and bought three packets each - we've had to order more. It was the same when we had the last one."

"The shops can stay open but is it worth it if there's no one in town? If there's a lockdown I will shut."

The owner of the local chippy

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Restaurant owner Mohammed Irshad says business has already been very quiet

Mohammed Irshad, 64, has run the Sunflower fish and chip restaurant and takeaway on the High Street for 40 years.

"It looks like there's going to be another lockdown soon. We've been preparing for a lockdown possibility.

"But since the end of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, business has been so quiet."

He added the business would have to resort to takeaways only or another discount scheme if it was to survive.

Rhondda Cynon Taff is also facing the possibility of a local lockdown.

Health officials have found the age category of 20 to 39 is where the overwhelming number of cases are, which has led to some blaming gatherings of young people for the spike in cases.

Student Robbie Edwards, 20, said: "I'm concerned as anybody would be.

"I have followed the rules, I've tried to keep my distance whenever I go to shops, I always wear my mask, keep my distance between customers.

"I don't think it's that fair to blame students to be honest."

Student Jordanna Pewtner said: "We're allowed to [socialise] now, we've been told we can.

"I'm quite sensible. I don't go out and meet new people, I'm still cautious and wouldn't want to carry it to someone."