Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
In recent months, the Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and the NHS in Wales have worked together to build a national testing infrastructure in Wales for COVID-19. The science tells us the virus will spread more quickly in the colder, wetter months so we can expect an increase in positive cases later this year.
Our Test, Trace, Protect strategy will be key to minimising the impact of any increase by enabling us to quickly identify people with COVID-19; identify new hotspots and isolate as many contacts as possible.
In particular, I recognise that speed is of the essence for effective suppression of the virus and SAGE advice is that as part of contact tracing, test results should be turned around in 24 hours to limit onwards transmission.
That is why I am investing nearly £32m of funding to improve the speed with which we can process tests and get as many results back within those first 24 hours.
This additional investment will pay for extra staff and equipment for the regional laboratories based at University Hospital Wales, Cardiff, Morriston Hospital, Swansea and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Rhyl, in order that they can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition we will be creating six new ‘Hot Labs’ at acute hospitals across Wales, which will have provision of rapid (<4 hours) testing for COVID-19. They will be based at Prince Philip Hospital, Llanelli, Morriston Hospital, Swansea, Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, University Hospital, Llandough and Grange Hospital, Cwmbran.
This testing equipment will also enable testing of other respiratory conditions to support patient care and patient flows through secondary care.
New lab capacity will also deliver access to rapid norovirus and C. difficile molecular testing, plus local blood culture incubation in our acute hospitals and release staff time in regional and local laboratories to support COVID-19 testing.
This investment will increase our resilience and help to ensure that our testing and contact tracing systems are robust enough to deal with the next phase of the pandemic. Our plan to have increased laboratory capacity in Wales alongside the UK testing infrastructure to deliver our Test, Trace, Protect strategy, keep coronavirus under control and be ready for the winter.