‘Unacceptable’: Wales’ Health Minister slams UK Government handling of Covid-19 tests

Vaughan Gething speaking and todays’ Coronavirus briefing.

Wales’ Health Minister has criticised as “unacceptable” the UK Government’s handling of distributing Covid-19 tests in Wales.

Vaughan Gething said that he was only told the night before that the number of tests available to Rhondda Cynon Taf, which is at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak, would be reduced to 60.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales he said that he understood why the council leader Andrew Morgan described himself as “furious” with the developments.

“I came back to see that there had been a decision made at an official level within the UK Department of Health to reduce testing and it affected Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland,” Vaughan Gething said.

“I exchanged a number of quick messages with health ministers in those countries and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock as well, making clear that this was a problem and that it wasn’t going to be acceptable.

“My officials then worked with the council, Rhondda Cynon Taf, and they worked with the Welsh Ambulance Service to actually put together additional testing for the area.

“We then got into a position where there was a small increase in testing in the morning. I then spoke to Matt Hancock at about 11.30 am and we had a further increase.

“The reason why Andrew Morgan was furious and I won’t quibble with him for saying that he was is having that notice without consideration, without an understanding of the impact, knowing that there’s a challenge of a potential outbreak taking place there and we need community testing to understand what’s happening.

“For all of that to happen, at an official level, without our officials even being involved in the conversation and simply being told, ‘tomorrow this is going to happen’, and the uncertainty of that, not just for health officials, but people who were expecting to go and get a test, and it really wasn’t acceptable.”

 

‘Ideal’

Presenter Vaughan Roderick asked Vaughan Gething whether the Welsh Government should be depending on the UK Government for testing, after establishing a superior test and trace system.

“I got quite a lot of flak earlier in the pandemic for not taking part in the UK testing programme,” he said.

“Our challenge though, and we have always wanted to build up a significant NHS Wales testing capacity, that’s to help us with testing in hospitals which we’ll need more of in the autumn and the winter, and it will also give us some capacity to deal with hotspots as well.”

He added that in an “ideal world” he would be in charge of all the testing in Wales.

He also said that Wales could not take too much comfort for being in a different position to England, as the start of the first wave showed that it was days not weeks before the same situation arose here.

“It’s our behaviour that took us out of lockdown, and it is our behaviour in terms of not respecting social distancing, that could see us go back into more local lockdowns or the possibility of a national lockdow and a second wave.”

He said that while some of the growth of coronavirus had been due to people feeling more relaxed about the rules, some of it was “deliberate”.

“No one can be in any doubt that having large house parties is outside the rules,” he said. “If we don’t take action collectively we will be back to where we were.”

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