CLOSENESS to England and more coronavius testing are key reasons why health experts believe Gwent is a hotspot for cases in Wales.

The Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area accounts currently for 309 of the 628 cases in Wales, more than twice as many as in the next most affected area (Cardiff and Vale, with 125 cases).

Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Frank Atherton - speaking at a daily briefing on the coronavirus situation - one reason is because Gwent is "closer to England".

Free Press Series:

Dr Frank Atherton (left) and Dr Andrew Goodall (right) at the coronavirus briefing in Cardiff

London is the big hotspot in England and though the city is more than 100 miles away along the M4, he said that being on the Wales-England border "is an issue".

Secondly, he said, a lot more testing has been going on in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area and this "has led to an increase in the number of cases being identified".

He also said that there "will be areas of Wales that flare up" in terms of coronavirus cases, and then calm down, and other areas will likely see increases in cases at some point.

"It is largely about testing," he said, adding that coronavirus is "circulating widely in all parts of Wales" and that may be in south Wales it is more prevalent at the moment.

Dr Atherton also warned that things are set to get worse before they get better, despite the restrictions placed on the people of Wales and the rest of the UK this week.

"There is a lag time for these (restrictive) measures to have an impact," he said.

"We can expect over the next few weeks to see cases and deaths unfortunately increasing.

"We are very grateful to the people of Wales for taking these messages on and acting sensibly.

"It is all about buying time for the NHS to be as ready as it can be for the expected surge in cases."

NHS Wales chief executive Dr Andrew Goodall told the briefing of an "unprecedented expansion" of critical care capacity is going on in Wales, alongside the distribution of millions of items of personal protective equipment (PPE).

That effort started with hospitals and has been extended to GP practices, and this week, social care settings.

Maintaining distribution and supply is vital, he said, and added that "we are working closely with colleagues across the UK to make there is equitable access".

He also emphasised the "very important" video message from Dr Sarah Aitken, public health director at Gwent's health board, which likens the coronavirus situation there to that in Italy, and warns that the area's NHS faces being overwhelmed - as in Italy.

She urges that people follow the restrictions on movement and interaction "to help save lives".

"The intention (of the video) is to make sure the public are very aware of the situation (in Gwent)," said Dr Goodall, himself a former chief executive of Aneurin Bevan University Health Board .

"It is emphasising that this is a very serious situation," he said.

More News:

Monmouthshire towns show solidarity after virus outbreak

Monmouthshire farmer's son wins long-running inheritance case

Grandmother 'first in Britain to die of coronavirus picked up in hospital'