Over the past three months, the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales have worked together to build a national testing infrastructure, which means that anyone who displays coronavirus symptoms can get a test quickly and easily.
Today’s new strategy builds on the latest scientific evidence and focuses on four priority areas:
- Contact tracing – to prevent the spread of the disease among the wider population
- Delivering NHS services – to support the safety of staff and patients
- Protecting vulnerable groups – to safeguard groups at greater risk of COVID-19
- Developing future delivery – to use surveillance and new technologies to improve our understanding of the virus.
There are currently two different forms of testing in Wales; the antigen virus detection test which shows if someone currently has the virus, and the antibody test which is used to determined whether a person has been previously infected.
The new strategy also looks at the role and purpose of asymptomatic testing and determines that this will continue to be used where there is the greatest risk – such as among our older populations and health and care workers.
It has also been confirmed the weekly testing programme for care homes will continue for another 4 weeks, with the data on prevalence rates closely monitored. If prevalence rates remain at the current low levels then the testing cycle will move to fortnightly.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said:
This strategy sets out the way forward for testing as we emerge from lockdown, with the prevalence of COVID-19 reducing from the peak we saw just a few weeks ago. It also makes preparations for a possible second wave of coronavirus in the autumn.
We now have a national testing infrastructure that means anyone who needs a test can access one. This enables our contact tracing system to help control the transmission of the disease as lockdown measures are eased.
Our NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service is fundamental to helping us to find a way to live with the disease until a vaccine or treatment is available.
There are still areas where we know we need to improve and we are working hard to ensure more test results are returned within 24 hours. Over the weeks and months ahead, we’ll make the most of new testing technologies and be ready to seize the opportunities that these offer.