Mass coronavirus testing to be rolled out across Merthyr Tydfil

  • Watch the interview with Merthyr Tydfil's Council Leader Kevin O'Neill

Mass coronavirus testing will be launched in Merthyr Tydfil from Saturday, Wales' health minister has announced.

Rapid Covid-19 tests will be offered to residents and workers from Saturday in the town which this week had the highest rate of new cases in Wales.

On Wednesday, Mr Gething announced the move in a written statement to MSs in the Welsh Parliament, saying the mass testing pilot would "help find more positive cases and break the chains of transmission".

Last week, Merthyr Tydfil briefly became the worst-hit area of the UK, with 741 cases per 100,000 people.

On Monday, the figure had dropped but the town still had the highest rate in Wales, with 205 new cases recorded in the seven days to November 12 - the equivalent of 339.8 cases per 100,000 people.

There are currently the equivalent of more than 50 hospital wards in Wales full of coronavirus patients, the chief executive of NHS Wales has revealed.

The first site will open at Merthyr Tydfil Rhydycar leisure centre on Saturday, with other sites due to open later this month. Credit: PA

The Welsh Government will be working with the UK Government, Merthyr Tydfil Council, Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board and the Ministry of Defence in a collaborative partnership in order to deliver the mass testing.

The testing programme will launch at Merthyr Tydfil's Rhydycar leisure centre on Saturday with more sites due to open through Merthyr Tydfil County Borough throughout November.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said the pilot would be supported by 165 military personnel.

Vaughan Gething said: “Our aims in delivering the area testing pilot are to protect Merthyr and residents at highest risk, test the maximum number of inhabitants living in Merthyr Tydfil to identify the virus, wherever it is, and empower the local community to arrest and reduce the community spread in order to save lives and save livelihoods."

Mass testing has already taken place in the city of Liverpool Credit: PA
  • How will the tests work?

Known as lateral flow tests, the rapid tests will give results within 20 to 30 minutes.

People that test positive will then given a traditional swab test and will be asked to return home so they can self-isolate immediately.

The testing pilot follows one in place in Liverpool where latest data shows more than 70,000 people were tested using the same method.

Speaking at the Welsh government's press conference, the chief executive of NHS Wales said it's important to "anticipate and hopefully contain transmission" rather than "simply respond to the virus."

Dr Andrew Goodall added: "We are appealing to the population of Merthyr to support us on this initiative and take that more repeat testing, whether they have symptoms or not, and hopefully that will allow us to make sure we can demonstrate for the population that there is a way of, again, having some control and tame the outbreak and the virus."

Dr Goodall said that the mass testing "is also offering a template for how we may want to introduce other local support and interventions across Wales, whatever our national actions are".

England's Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has also urged the people of Merthyr Tydfil to 'play their part' in bringing the Coronavirus under control by taking part in Wales' first mass testing pilot.

He said: "I urge everyone in Merthyr to play their part in bringing this virus under control by getting a test, and by following restrictions in place.”