Public Health Wales chief 'unfamiliar' with 9,000 coronavirus test target

Credit: PA

The chief executive of Public Health Wales has said she was "not familiar" with the Welsh Government's target of being able to carry out 9,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April.

The Welsh Government had set itself a target of 9,000 tests a day Credit: PA

The admission from Tracey Cooper came as she gave evidence to the Senedd's health committee - and despite her saying she and her organisation had been working closely with Welsh Government throughout the pandemic.

Plaid Cymru health spokesperson Rhun Ap Iorwerth MS Credit: Zoom

Plaid Cymru's health spokesperson, Rhun Ap Iorwerth MS, quizzed Ms Cooper on the Welsh Government's targets, which were set on 21 March.

Mr Iorwerth asked who would have come up with the 9,000 testing capacity target and whether it was Public Health Wales.

The health committee met via video conference Credit: Zoom

Responding, to Mr Iorwerth, Tracey Cooper said: "I am not familiar with the trajectories, I'm afraid that you are referring to." When repeatedly pushed on where the figure came from, Ms Cooper repeated her answer saying: "I'm not familiar with the 9,000 trajectory".

Read more: The Welsh Governments original testing targets.

In a written statement in March, the health Minister, Vaughan Gething MS said, "From 1 April, this will increase by a further 5,000 tests per day (total – 6,000 daily). From 7 April, this will increase by a further 2,000 tests per day (total – 8,000 daily). By end of April, Public Health Wales are aiming to have capacity to undertake up to 9,000 tests per day in Wales."

Those targets were widely reported but have not been met. They have since been scrapped, which drew criticism from opposition parties, including the UK Government.

The First Minister claimed public testing targets had become a Credit: PA

Last week, it was revealed the Welsh Government has its own internal targets for coronavirus testing, which were not made public. Mr Drakeford said it was becoming a "distraction" as people were "chasing" a numbers figure on whether it had been "met or not met" week by week.

Welsh Conservative health spokesperson Angela Burns MS Credit: Zoom

Next to question the chief of Public Health Wales was Welsh Conservative health spokesperson Angela Burns MS, who said: "One of the real drivers of this is about trust. To say that there has been evasion over the questions, or a lack of straight answers to the questions Rhun has put forward would be an understatement.

"I am genuinely shocked that Public Health Wales is saying publicly and on the record that they were not aware of the government's commitment, that the government said very loudly and very clearly in multiple media that there was an ambition for 9,000 testing capacity by the end of April.

"And can I ask you again...did either of you know that that 9,000 target existed? You are, after all, Public Health Wales."

Tracey Cooper responded by saying: "Apologies if you think we're avoiding the question, we're not intending to. Certainly I'm not familiar with the 9,000 trajectory. That's my answer."

Watch live: Senedd Health Committee