Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
I am pleased to be able to publish today, a refreshed COVID-19 Testing Strategy for Wales (https://gov.wales/covid-19-testing-strategy) and a new Community Testing Framework (https://gov.wales/covid-19-community-testing-framework), which sets out our offer of support for community testing and invites local health boards and local authorities to work with other Test Trace and Protect (TTP) partners to develop locally led proposals.
When we published our Testing Strategy in July 2020, we were emerging from lockdown after the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. As we continue to see high prevalence of COVID-19 and the emergence of the new variant, which has required us to implement level 4 restrictions in Wales, testing continues to play a pivotal role in our overall approach to preventing the transmission of COVID-19 across Wales.
Since the last strategy was published, new testing technologies have demonstrated it is possible to test at far greater scale, frequency and speed than ever before. This refreshed strategy looks at how we can use existing and new technology effectively to meet our testing priorities, which are: -
- Test to diagnose
- to support NHS clinical care testing helps identify those who are infected so that clinical judgments can be made to ensure the best care.
- Test to safeguard
- to protect our NHS and social care services and individuals who are our most vulnerable.
- Test to find
- to target outbreaks and enhance community surveillance in order to prevent the spread of the disease amongst the population.
- Test to maintain
- to support the education system and the health and well-being of our children and young people and to enable them to realise their potential, and to identify cases and contacts in workplaces to prevent them from potentially spreading the infection if they were to become infected and infectious, and to maintain key services.
- Test to enable
- To promote economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing and recovery.
As we begin 2021 effective suppression of COVID-19 transmission will continue to be vital to manage the virus. It is important that people continue to book tests when they have symptoms, we test to avoid harm and support the more vulnerable and are active in finding cases so that we can help reduce or stop the spread of the virus in our communities.
Given that a third of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 show no symptoms and uptake for testing in some communities is low there are certain contexts in which we need to deploy more active case finding approaches.
Our community testing will use a risk based approach built on local intelligence and knowledge to target areas where active case finding will have the greatest impact in reducing harm.
While there is already effective joint working and practice being shared across partners we will continue to ensure that our testing strategy is delivered to optimise capacity, manage resourcing challenges and reduce complexity in the system. It will also continue to evolve to meet the future challenges we face as testing will continue to play an important role alongside the vaccine in supporting us to save lives and livelihoods during 2021 and in the longer term.
The last 10 months have been incredibly difficult for everyone. I want to thank everyone for your support, in following the restrictions that have had to be in place. Your continued support is essential to help keep Wales safe.