As Britain eyes an end to lockdown, one area is creating a particular headache for public health officials, scientists and politicians: Wales, and especially the old mining communities. 

The country has proportionally almost twice the number of cases as the rest of the UK while mortality rates in and around the Rhondda Valley have also been among the very highest in the country.

Across Wales, the latest figures show 409 cases per 100,000 population compared to 262 in England, 273 in Scotland and 247 in Northern Ireland.

As of Sunday, Wales had lost 1,267 people to Covid-19 out of a population of just over three million. A sixth of the dead have come from Rhondda Cynon Taf, the county borough that covers the Rhondda Valley.

The latest figures show that Rhondda Cynon Taf’s positive test rate is 610 cases per 100,000 of the population. In total, 1,466 people have tested positive in a population of 240,000 and 224 people have died. It has the highest mortality rate in Wales at 93.28 deaths per 100,000, and one of the highest in the UK.

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for the area, said: “Rhondda is the worst in the country. We are the worst, worst, worst.” Only Barrow-in-Furness, in Cumbria, another former mining community, but with a much smaller population has more proportionally more cases – 823.7 positive tests per 100,000.

While London and parts of the south east of England contemplate life out of lockdown, much of Wales remains in the grip of the virus, the all-important transmission rate thought to be only just below the magic R figure of one that arrests its exponential growth.

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