Testing, tracking and tracing 'pivotal' to controlling Covid-19 once lockdown is eased, says Vaughan Gething

Testing, tracking and tracing "will be pivotal" to control the transmission of Covid-19 once lockdown restrictions are eased, the Health Minister has said.

Vaughan Gething said contact tracing, surveillance, sampling and testing will be used in an attempt to contain the spread and described the plans as "one of the biggest public health challenges we will face as a country."

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Mr Gething said contact tracing will be used to identify people who have come into contact with someone suspected of having Covid-19, in an attempt to stop others from becoming infected.

This method of contact tracing was initially used when the virus first began to spread in the UK, but Mr Gething said it will now "have to now operate on a vastly increased scale."

He said the contact tracing would require "a large and dedicated workforce staffing local tracing teams, coordinated regionally and supported by technology to enable swift and effective follow up."

Surveillance measures would also be used to try to track the disease and help the government understand how it spreads. Mr Gething said this data will be published "so that everyone can see the progress we are making."

He also announced that access to testing will expand over the coming weeks through the use of drive-through centres, mobile testing vans and home-testing.

He said in order for the plans to succeed it will be necessary to "ask even more" of the people of Wales.

He added: "We know that this is not easy. But we know, seeing the sacrifices people have already made over the past 6 weeks, the scale of the challenge facing us is more than matched by the absolute determination of people across Wales to help to beat this virus and to honour every single person who has tragically lost their lives as a result of this virus."

A leaked document suggested 30,000 tests could be needed per day in Wales Credit: PA

Asked about a leaked Public Health Wales report, which said the plans to test, track and trace would require around 30,000 tests per day in Wales, Mr Gething said the report "is a draft."

He added: It’s not the confirmed plan - we are still working on that."

He said if Wales were to follow the Scottish model, around 9,000 tests would be required per day. He added he was "confident" Wales could be at that point by the end of May.

On Monday, 892 coronavirus tests were carried out in Wales.

Elsewhere, the Welsh Government announced on Tuesday morning that it is writing to a further 21,000 vulnerable people advising them to "shield", meaning to stay at home and not leave the house until 15 June 2020.

The new advice comes after medical officers added further conditions to the list of people who should be shielded and reviewed the existing database.

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