Health Minister Vaughan Gething has confirmed that from 1 June the Welsh Government intends to implement population contact tracing for coronavirus across Wales.
The government has stressed its Test, Trace, Protect strategy is critical to plans to ease restrictions in the coming weeks. Ministers are meeting to review the current lockdown measures on Thursday with a decision on any easing to be announced on Friday.
Pilot schemes have been running in Hywel Dda, Powys, Betsi Cadwaladr and Cwm Tâf Morgannwg health board areas since 18th May which the minister described as “a useful opportunity to test systems and processes in different parts of Wales.”
Tracing will be introduced on a phased basis, with the focus initially on those in receipt of a positive covid-19 test result.
In a written statement Mr Gething explained the decision to focus on those with a confirmed diagnosis: “Given the nature of coronavirus symptoms, the vast majority of people who think they are symptomatic and seek a test return a negative result. At present on average only 12% of tests are returning a positive result. Consequently, contact tracing initiated by contact with a symptomatic individual (i.e. someone who has sought a test) could result in many people being asked to isolate when there is no positive case.”
In preparation for the introduction of the tracing programme the minister said testing capacity has ramped up in recent weeks. Current laboratory capacity is over 9,000 tests a day, and that is expected to increase to 10,000 tests a day soon.
Testing centres across the country will also be made available to the general public. Currently only critical workers can access them. Both critical workers and the public will also be able to access home testing kits via the UK government website.
In a direct appeal to the people of Wales, Mr Gething writes “I am very aware of the sacrifices that people have made during lockdown. I recognise that we will continue to ask people to play a significant role in controlling the spread of the disease, by self-isolating with their households when they have symptoms and getting themselves tested.
“This system will only work if people willingly play their part and continue to protect others. Testing is a key part to this national effort, as it will allow people who are symptomatic, but not positive, to come out of self-isolation as soon as possible.”