More coronavirus testing units to become available in Wales after 'deeply frustrating' delays

Wales' Health Minister says there are more people who want a test than the capacity keep up with demand.

Criticism is mounting over Wales' coronavirus testing system after reports of people unable to get tests or having to travel thousands of miles to get one.

The testing system has been struggling to cope with soaring demand which has seen patients turn up at accident and emergency in the hope of getting Covid-19 tests. Public Health Wales has issued a warning to people not to show up in A&E if they have symptoms.

Speaking in the coronavirus briefing, the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said it's been "deeply frustrating" for people to get tests but that up to five extra mobile testing units would become available in Wales this week."The challenge is there are more people who want to test than the capacity to test and keep up with demand. That's why I announced earlier on today that we're already seeking to move five of the mobile testing units that we deploy in areas of higher spikes, we're moving those away from Lighthouse Lab testing, those result and testing will now take place inside Public Health Wales labs, here in Wales."

It comes after it was announced Rhondda Cynon Taf would go into lockdown following a surge of cases.

A new testing centre has also been announced in New Tredegar in Caerphilly Borough for residents North of the county. Caerphilly became the first area of Wales to go into a local lockdown last week.

According to the latest government testing data, there have been 665,264 antigen tests authorised for Welsh residents up until 13 September, but Plaid Cymru MS for Rhondda, Leanne Wood says testing needs to be a priority and lives "depend" on it.

  • How does the testing system work in Wales?

Testing in Wales is currently split between the Welsh & UK Government, with around 70% of these tests processed by the UK network of Lighthouse labs. The remaining tests are carried out by NHS Wales-run labs. The Welsh Government say they have the capacity to do 15,000 tests per day but on Tuesday, 15 September only 7,902 tests were carried out according to figures from Public Health Wales.

Mr Gething said the challenge lies with the Lighthouse Laboratories trying to keep up with demand as the number of people wanting tests increases.

  • How to get a coronavirus test in Wales?

Tests gan be given to anyone with coronavirus symptoms which include:

  • a high temperature

  • a new, continuous cough

  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

People can be either go to a test site or be sent a home testing kit by going online or calling 119. Anyone with symptoms has to book a test before going to a drive-through or walk-through testing site, but patients have said they've faced long waiting queues on the phone or have been unable to book a slot online.

Steve Hynd travelled more than two hours to get a test for his family.

Families have previously spoken out of their frustrations, including father-of-two Steve Hynd from Machynlleth who travelled more than two hours to Telford with his children to get a test - only to find the site had run out. When he and his family arrived at the site in Telford, there were "traffic jams, there was chaos" and people were being turned away, according to Mr Hynd.

The parents of a 35 year-old woman with cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy from Aberdare have also faced difficulty.

Margaret Melhuish and her husband had been self isolating between March and August this year and took on all caring duties for their daughter, Laura. They say they were left unable to book a Covid-19 test for their daughter's carers. 

Personal Assistants returned to the family home last month but Margaret says as she is the one that employs the assistants from her daughter's care allowance she's treated as a professional care home. This means she's been told to arrange all tests and claims she's had to send some of them as far as Aberdeen.