Organisations on the frontline of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan's response to Covid-19 have come together to warn that they are facing an emergency situation as recorded cases of Covid-19 in the region reach record highs.
The Police, University Health Board, Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan councils are extremely concerned by sharp rises in transmission and test positivity rates as well as the sheer numbers of cases.
More people are contracting Covid-19 and resources are severely stretched with medical professionals under significant pressure.
Hospital resources are being tested and staff pushed to the limit following their experience at the sharp end of the pandemic.
There have now been nearly 16,000 confirmed cases within Cardiff and the Vale,11 people are currently in Intensive Care Units and 278 medical and nursing staff are currently unable to work in the Health Board because they are self-isolating due to Covid.
A large number of police officers are also self-isolating after contracting the virus on shifts that regularly involve breaking up illegal gatherings.
Now the bodies responsible for keeping people safe during the pandemic are appealing to the public to address the behaviours that have put Cardiff and the Vale on course for crisis.
Aside from keeping two metres apart, regular hand-washing, and wearing a face covering when needed, it is important to:
• Avoid car sharing.
• Work from home wherever possible.
• Avoid social interaction if you need to visit a place of work.
• Avoid socialising and mixing in other people's homes.
• Conduct Christmas shopping alone.
It is also important to self-isolate and get tested if showing any symptoms and to self-isolate if another member of the household is showing symptoms.
Fiona Kinghorn, Executive Director of Public Health at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said: "It is alarming to see the cases rise so quickly in just seven days so we need to act urgently if we are to turn this around.
"It is really important that people of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan please follow the guidance to minimise the risk as much as possible.
"We are very concerned that our primary care and hospital services are now under sustained pressure due to Covid, and sadly the number of people who we are getting very unwell is increasing. Unfortunately, we are likely to see that translate through into more deaths too.
"While we do have a vaccine that we have started to roll out, this is a 9 - 12 month programme and will take some time, so now is not the time for us to be complacent. The virus is still prevalent in our communities and our hospitals and by practicing social distancing, washing our hands regularly and wearing face coverings we are all doing our bit to help.
"We would ask that you please try and stay at home, please do not mix with other households unnecessarily, work from home if you are able, and if it is essential to go out please do so in quieter periods. These small steps can really help us all to keep our communities safe."
Chief Superintendent Andy Valentine, who is leading South Wales Police's response to COVID-19, said: "The situation in South Wales, although not wholly dissimilar to elsewhere in Wales and the rest of the UK, is serious. Community transmission and the numbers of confirmed cases continues to rise and it is imperative that we all act now.
"We continue to appeal to our communities to support us by doing their bit to follow the rules and help slow the spread of Coronavirus. By doing so, they lower the risk posed to our officers as well as our colleagues across all partner agencies, who are all working tirelessly during the pandemic. By doing the right thing, we can all help protect our frontline services - most importantly our NHS - and help save lives.
"Like all public services, policing has been affected by the extremely worrying rise of Coronavirus in our communities. We have planned extensively for this situation and we have had a dedicated command structure in place throughout both waves of the pandemic to ensure we continue to keep our communities safe.
"We have confidence in our tried and tested plans to ensure continuity of policing during times of capacity issues or increased demand, including redeployment of officers, to ensure we can respond to emergencies and continue protecting those who need us most.
"The public should take reassurance from this, but I do appeal to everyone not to place further strain on our already stretched frontline services, by not playing their part to slow the spread."
Cllr Neil Moore, Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, said: "The seriousness of the current situation cannot be overstated. Case numbers and infection rates across Cardiff and the Vale are rising at a frightening rate and our trajectory suggests we are heading for the worst period of the pandemic. The police and local authority are being stretched by the number of Covid breaches they are having to deal with, while hospitals are once again under extreme pressure due to the sheer volume of patients.
"The professionals working in these organisations continue to selflessly put themselves in harm's way during the course of their work. The risk they face could be greatly reduced if people followed the rules and adhered to guidance more closely. That absolutely can make a real difference and it is everyone's responsibility to do so.
"While taking personal responsibility is of paramount importance, the onus is also on businesses to make sure they operate in a Covid-safe manner. I appeal to all businesses to review their practices, whether in retail, hospitality, business and industry. Our teams are available to provide guidance if required. If staff cannot work from home, they must take precautions in the workplace and avoid any form of contact with others.
"Every rule violation makes the situation worse no matter how small it may seem, so in the strongest possible terms, I would urge everyone to stick closely to the restrictions, take their responsibilities seriously and stay safe."
The Leader of Cardiff Council, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: "The increase in Cardiff case numbers that we are seeing now could not be any more stark. This needs to act as a warning to every one of us about the deadly seriousness of the situation we are now facing. If current projections are realised, then by Christmas week the high prevalence of the disease in the community would lead to a massive level of transmission within families and inevitably the loss of many lives. Lives that don't have to be lost.
"Each and every one of us has a responsibility to act now, and not only by just adhering to the Welsh Government coronavirus regulations, but by taking further steps to protect those whom we plan to see at Christmas - our cherished loved ones. We should keep our contact with people outside our household to an absolute minimum until the current threat has passed, but especially over the next fortnight. I know that will be painful for many, especially at this time of year, but it is a price we need to pay now, so that we can protect our loved ones for the months to come. We know many people think that the vaccine is here so everything is going to be ok. That's simply not the case. Many people could die before the vaccine is rolled out if we don't change our behaviour now, people who don't need to die. Members of your families.
"With our colleagues in the Cardiff & Vale University Health Board, Public Health Wales, and South Wales Police, we are fully mobilised in this fight against COVID-19. But it remains a huge challenge, one that we will best meet if we meet it together, just as we did in the spring. I'm asking every one of you to meet that challenge together. Let's stop the spread, and let's keep Cardiff, the NHS and our loved ones safe."