Access to free Covid-19 testing extended in Wales due to new surge in cases
Health Minister, Eluned Morgan has confirmed that access to free Lateral Flow Device tests will be extended in Wales until July 31st due to a new surge of cases.
Tests will be available to the people showing symptoms of coronavirus, including a high temperature a new, continuous cough, and a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste.
People visiting someone eligible for new COVID-19 treatments will also be eligible for the free tests.
The Minister’s announcement comes following a rise in cases across the UK.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people testing positive for the virus in Wales for the seven days ending 11 June was 64,800 a 60% increase in cases from the previous week.
The ONS estimates 2.13% of the population had Covid or around 1 in 45 people, up from one in 75 people for the previous week.
The emergence of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are also contributing to this increase as they become more dominant across the UK.
According to the ONS, the recent increase in cases was “likely caused by infections compatible with Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5”, which are now thought to be the most dominant variants in much of the UK.
BA.4 and BA.5 are newer strains of coronavirus that were recently classified as “variants of concern”, after analysis found both were likely to have a “growth advantage” over BA.2.
The health minister has also announced the following testing will continue to be in place –
LFD and PCR testing for those eligible for COVID-19 treatments.
PCR testing for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses for symptomatic care home residents and prisoners.
PCR and LFD testing under the patient testing framework and when clinically advised including pre-operative hospital patients and care home residents returning from inpatient hospital stays
LFD testing for symptomatic health and social care staff.
Twice weekly LFD tests for asymptomatic testing for health and social care staff.
Those visiting people in care homes should continue to test using tests provided by the care home they are visiting.
Self-isolation payments of £500 will end on 30th June 2022, whilst the COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement scheme will be extended until 31st August 2022 to support social care staff to stay away from work due to testing positive.
“Testing has been an effective tool in breaking the chain of transmission and with an increase in cases its vital that we keep testing in place to protect the most vulnerable in our society,” the health minister said.
“As we have seen before, Covid can quickly change, I am announcing this extension in response to the changing picture and new variants of concern.
“I would also ask people to take protective measures to protect the more vulnerable in the community, wear masks in health and care settings, stay at home if you test positive, and take up the offer for the vaccine.
“We know that the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, I would urge those eligible to have their spring booster if they have not already had it, the booster is available until June 30.
“Covid has not gone away, whilst we are learning to live safely with it, we will continue to monitor the situation and as we have done for the last two years, we will work together to Keep Wales Safe.”
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