Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services
I want to inform Members of our plans for targeted community testing of asymptomatic people in Wales.
Following publication of our refreshed testing strategy and the community testing framework, targeted community testing will begin in parts of Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and RCT from the beginning of March under our ‘Test to Find’ priority.
We know that up to a third of individuals who test positive for coronavirus have no symptoms at all and can therefore spread it unknowingly. Our testing strategy recognises under its ‘Test to Find’ approach that identifying and isolating COVID-19 cases in the community reduces the transmission of infection, supports contact tracing, protects vulnerable individuals and helps to slow or stop the spread of the disease.
Our aims in delivering targeted community testing are to:
- provide a locally led public health risk based approach using area intelligence and knowledge to reduce the spread of the virus;
- provide additional asymptomatic testing capacity within communities;
- remove barriers and incentivise people to take up testing and self‑isolation;
- identify active cases from individuals showing no symptoms and unaware they are potentially infecting others;
- enhance local surveillance in the community to aid further actions by partners; and,
- provide additional reassurances and support for communities when restrictions start to ease.
Community testing under the proposals agreed will be delivered through collaborative partnerships between the Welsh Government, UK Government, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and RCT County Borough Councils. There has been an impressive can-do attitude from all partners who have shown initiative and creativity in developing solutions for delivery based on a local assessment of risk and need. In all three local authorities, testing will be targeted on communities with consistently high infection rates.
The community testing programme will use Lateral Flow Devices. Everyone who attends will be given a test using the devices, which can turnaround results within 20 - 30 minutes. Anyone who tests positive via a LFD test will be asked to return home so they can self-isolate immediately and arrangements will be made for a follow-up PCR test.
Although community testing will initially be available in three local authorities, further discussions are taking place with partners in North Wales and it could be rolled-out more widely based on local circumstance and need identified.