Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
Today, a year after Test Trace Protect was set up, the Welsh Government is allocating an additional £32m to health boards and local authorities to extend contact tracing until the end of March 2022. This increases the total Welsh Government investment in contact tracing in 2021-22 to £92m.
The Welsh Government is also today launching a refreshed Test, Trace, Protect strategy, which sets out how the service will adapt and respond to the pandemic in the months ahead.
Our publicly-funded and locally-run Test Trace Protect service in Wales has been very successful.
In the year since it was launched, local contact tracing teams across Wales have investigated more than 170,000 positive cases and identified and contacted nearly 360,000 close contacts – reaching 99.7% of positive cases eligible for follow up and almost 95% of close contacts eligible for follow up.
The service has also provided more than 12,500 self-isolation support payments to help people to stay at home and stop the spread of this awful virus.
Estimates from the Technical Advisory Group, show that when coronavirus transmission was high, before the firebreak period, the TTP service reduced the R rate from approximately 1.7 to 1.3. More recently, its contribution has been more marked, reducing the R rate from 1.3 to 0.8.
As restrictions are relaxed and a large proportion of the population has had at least one Covid vaccination, we are moving into a new phase of the pandemic. The focus of the TTP service will be on improving the identification of the close contacts of all positive cases and more effectively interrupting chains of transmission.
It will work to strengthen and enhance the tracing of variants of concern and the management and quarantine of people returning to Wales from red and amber-list countries. The service will also provide more tailored support to people who need to self-isolate.
As we have been able to bring coronavirus cases under control – thanks to the help of everyone in Wales – contact tracing teams have been supporting the wider pandemic response. They have helped to monitor the 18,000 people who have returned from amber list countries; they are currently delivering the interim Welsh Vaccination Certificate Service; they are supporting the fantastic vaccination programme and the running of community testing sites, as well as offering businesses and local employers extra support and guidance as restrictions are relaxed.
The extra £32m investment in TTP and the refreshed strategy will help to ensure we are well placed and well prepared to face whatever happens in the months ahead of us, no matter what twists and turns the pandemic may yet take.