Coronavirus: Wales joins UK home testing scheme

  • Published
TestsImage source, Reuters

The number of tests for coronavirus in Wales is to rise after the Welsh Government joined a UK-wide home testing scheme.

Anyone over the age of five in Wales, along with the other three nations, will be able to order tests if they have symptoms.

It coincides with Wales joining a UK government-run testing website.

An abandoned Wales-only portal for testing cost to date around £40,000, the Welsh Government said on Monday.

Ministers in Cardiff have been under pressure to increase testing after targets of 5,000 tests a day were abandoned in April.

There is now capacity for more than 5,000 tests a day, however Public Health Wales figures say 1,931 tests were done in Wales on Sunday.

The Welsh Government says the home tests will form a key part of its test and trace plans.

Up until now only some key workers and hospital patients with symptoms, and care home staff and residents, have been eligible for testing.

The home kits will be in addition to those tests. People who need a test can apply through the NHS website, or dial 119 if they do not have access to the internet.

The range of recognised symptoms was also expanded on Monday - as well as a continuous cough or fever, a loss of taste or smell are also included.

Image source, Getty Images

The Welsh Government wants to increase the number of tests for people in hospital, key workers and in care homes to 10,000 a day by the end of the month.

It has said that it could increase to 20,000 a day by drawing on the UK-wide testing programme.

Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: "This announcement is a major step forward in increasing coronavirus testing in Wales even further.

"Critical workers will continue to be prioritised for testing but now members of the public with symptoms can apply for a test. The number of people we can test will increase as we continue to build our capacity."

He told BBC Wales the Welsh NHS will receive the results of the tests, which will go to a "UK testing lab".

'How will Wales cope?'

Opposition parties gave the news cautious approval.

Welsh Conservative health spokeswoman Angela Burns said it came with the "usual caveat of 'How will Wales cope?', because the testing regime in Wales has been very poor, with missed and then abandoned targets since this pandemic began".

"We need to see real and sustained improvements and increases here by the Welsh Government before this new policy can give us hope," she said.

Plaid Cymru health minister Rhun ap Iorwerth said: "We're all in agreement that we can't even begin to significantly ease restrictions in Wales without having testing, tracing and isolating plans in place that we can trust.

"But after consistently failing to reach testing targets before scrapping them, the Welsh Government has put even more pressure on itself to get this right."

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said both the UK and Welsh governments "have worked closely together to put the safety of Wales' population at the centre of our efforts to combat the coronavirus".

"The decision of the Welsh Government to join the rest of the UK on the testing portal brings that alignment even closer," he added.