On 15 July, I announced an extension to 9 August of the programme of weekly testing of staff working in care homes across Wales introduced on 15 June and indicated we would move to a fortnightly cycle if prevalence rates of Covid-19 infection within care homes remained low.
I am pleased to report that thanks to the vigilance and commitment of care home managers and staff, prevalence rates have continued to remain at low levels. Accordingly, the majority of care homes will move to a fortnightly testing cycle from 10 August. We will continue to closely monitor the data and I will review the policy in eight weeks, in early October.
The rates of positive tests in care homes in North Wales, although relatively small in number, have been higher than in the other areas of Wales during the past few weeks. The higher prevalence rates for the wider population in North Wales than in the other areas of Wales, together with outbreaks in some communities in North Wales, may have impacted on care homes in the region. For these reasons, and to provide continued assurance to vulnerable residents and their families, I am asking care homes within the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area to continue undertaking weekly testing of their staff for the next eight weeks and we will continue to closely monitor the testing data in the care homes and the wider community.
A further change in policy I am announcing today is that from next Monday, 10 August, all the regular testing of care home staff should be undertaken through the UK portal and the Lighthouse laboratories. My officials have been speaking with the care homes sector and the Health Boards to ensure support is provided to care homes who have previously undertaken the regular testing of their staff through the Health Boards and their laboratories. The NHS Wales laboratories should be used for testing any staff and residents in care homes who are presenting symptoms of Covid-19 and in response to any outbreaks in care homes.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.