The Welsh first minister has argued that Wales should receive a boost in funding from Westminster because of its ageing, vulnerable population as the number of Covid-19 cases soared in the south of the country.

A “hot spot” of coronavirus cases is continuing to rise in and around the city of Newport and some former mining and heavy industry areas in the Gwent valleys, while the number of cases in the Cardiff area has also gone up sharply.

Mark Drakeford said on Monday that a host of reasons – and pure chance – could be to blame for the worrying number of cases in the south-east, but he also said that Wales, in general, had an older and sicker population than the UK as a whole.

People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for the following purposes:

Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the government will:

Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.

He said: “The money we get at the moment comes to us because of our population share. We get money depending on how many people there are in Wales.

“What we say we should get is money that reflects the needs of Wales. We have an older, sicker population. Our history of coalmining and heavy industry means we have people with breathing problems that the coronavirus is particularly likely to affect.

“Money should come to Wales based on our need, not simply on population share. That’s a conversation we keep on having with the UK government.”

As of Monday afternoon, there were 565 confirmed cases in the area covered by the Aneurin Bevan University health board in south-east Wales, accounting for almost half of all Welsh cases – a rise of 51 from Sunday. The number of cases in Cardiff and Vale is catching up, increasing by 62 to 344 over the same period.

The Aneurin Bevan board warned last week the pattern it was seeing was the same as in Italy. One measure it has taken is to seek to open part of a new hospital in Cwmbran a year early.

Drakeford said the Aneurin Bevan “hot spot” could be because a staff member contracted the virus early on and passed it on to colleagues – and/or because Covid-19 was moving east to west across the UK.

He said because the health worker contracted the virus, testing in Gwent was carried out more vigorously and earlier than other parts of Wales.

“We may partly be picking up the result of that,” he said. “It looks like there are more there because we have tested more people there.”

The first minister added: “There is evidence the disease is moving east to west across the UK. Newport is right at the eastern end of Wales. You would expect if that is the case that the biggest impact of coronavirus would be felt first of all in the Aneurin health board.”

Another theory circulating, but not being taken seriously, is the presence of the visit of the Benetton rugby team, based in Treviso, northern Italy, to Newport at the start of March.

Opposition politicians have called on the Welsh government to do more to discover the reason for the hot spot in south-east Wales. They point out that there is no equivalent problem in the north, which has an equally porous border with England.

They also raise concerns over the rate of testing in Wales and the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline staff.

The Welsh Conservative shadow health minister, Angela Burns, said it was deeply worrying that only 800 tests a day could be carried out and that a contract that would have led to them being increased significantly had fallen through.

Delyth Jewell, the Plaid Cymru assembly member for South Wales East, said: “The Aneurin Bevan health board is [at the centre] of the outbreak in Wales. Per head of population, we are faring worse than even London.

“It’s vital that our health workers are given adequate PPE and are given access to priority testing.”

Jewell also called for people to more disciplined about isolation. She said: “People have to listen to government advice and stay at home.”

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