THE leader of Wrexham Council has called for tougher enforcement measures to be introduced to compel people to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic.

It follows a localised outbreak associated with the Rowan Foods factory on Wrexham Industrial Estate, where the total number of positive cases of COVID-19 has risen to 302.

The local authority has been heavily involved in the “test, trace, protect” system which has been contacting workers and asking them to self-isolate where necessary, as well as those they have been in close contact with.

Last week, an investigation by BBC Radio 5 Live highlighted claims that some staff members with symptoms of the virus were not self-isolating because they could not afford to live off statutory sick pay.

The Leader:

Rowan Foods, Wrexham

Cllr Mark Pritchard, who heads up the ruling independent/Conservative coalition on the council, said he was not aware of any specific cases where people had refused to go into quarantine in Wrexham.

However, he added it was important that stronger action could be taken when it does occur.

Speaking at a media briefing held this week, he said: “I don’t think the enforcement is strong enough and that’s just my opinion.

“Unfortunately, in this day and age, you will have some individuals or families breaking that.

“I think the Welsh Government has to come up with something to tighten this enforcement “We’ve all seen the news globally and locally and across the country, where individuals have been getting on buses and public transport, when they should be self-isolating.

“That is unacceptable. We all have a moral duty to do what’s right, but unfortunately, there’ll be a small percent who won’t.”

Health Minister Vaughan Gething previously said public health officials had been given powers to require people to self-isolate, which are legally enforceable.

But he added the government was keen to avoid using them if possible.

Speaking at a press conference last week, he said: “That’s not an approach we want to take because thus far, we’ve had a high level of compliance with self-isolation, but people do need to take this seriously.

“It isn’t a case of if you’ve been advised to self-isolate that you can nip out to the shops as long as you’re quick and wear a mask. You’ll still a risk to yourself, and other people.

“I do understand the dilemma for workers who are concerned about their ability to pay the bills and to maintain their livelihood.

“At the same time, the wrong form of action could actually have a much greater cost for all of us, including that person and their family “That’s why I’m so clear in the advice. The advice is to follow the advice of test, trace, protect, get yourself a test, self-isolate and make sure your household is self-isolating as well.”

Public Health Wales on Wednesday reported a “modest increase” of 13 confirmed coronavirus cases linked to Rowan Foods since Friday.

Officials reiterated that the figures were in line with what they would expect and the outbreak was still under control.

Meanwhile, the council said its public protection team had largely received a positive response from workers it contact.

However Cllr Hugh Jones, lead member for people, pointed out it had also flagged up a number of wider social issues.

He said: “I think there is another element to this where perhaps I didn’t see it.

“When they are making the contact with those people who have been in in contact with the person who’s identified as being positive, it throws up a number of social issues that people raise.

“One of the important things is how we ensure that those people who are identified as vulnerable and who have been in contact are provided with support.

“That is throwing up quite a challenge to those people who are doing the contact working.

“One of the things that we’re trying to ensure is that where people raise issues about vulnerability, that they’re signposted to the appropriate agency and the appropriate support.”

The Welsh Government has been asked for further comment on Cllr Pritchard’s request.