Merthyr Tydfil mass testing begins: How will it work and where to get a test

 Mass testing will begin at the university to help protect people most at risk over the festive break
A similar scheme has been taking place in Liverpool where more than 90,000 people have been tested for Covid using rapid testing Credit: PA

Anyone who lives or works in Merthyr Tydfil will be eligible to be tested for coronavirus from Saturday as part of a mass testing scheme announced by the Welsh Government.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the pilot, which will be the first of its kind in Wales since the pandemic began, would "help find more positive cases and break the chains of transmission".

Our reporter Hannah Thomas tweeted on Saturday morning that large queues had begun forming at one site shortly after it opened.

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

Latest figures show that number has dropped recently with cases per 100,000 currently at 245 in the week of November 11 - 17.

Home tests are also being considered for the vulnerable and those who are shielding Credit: PA

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

The leader of the council Kevin O'Neill told ITV News it will be a "real opportunity" for Merthyr Tydfil and getting to people who are asymptomatic will help control transmission of Covid-19 in the area.

"Those people who don't know if they've got the disease - and we can test them, and trace, find out where this disease is going and stop the virus in its tracks. So, we are very glad to be doing this.

On the high numbers of cases in the area, Mr O'Neill said "it's a lot to do with the way we live."

"We're close emotionally - we are close physically. We are a condensed area - it's a small area with a small population and when this virus gets into the community, it travels fast.

"Once again, that is why this is a real opportunity for us".

The Welsh Government said it will be closely monitoring the number of positive results to help "better understand the spread of the virus".

165 military personnel have been drafted in to help with logistics and planning Credit: PA
  • So, how does mass testing work?

The aim to test the entire population of Merthyr Tydfil - more than 60,000 people - will require a significant amount of resource.

The Welsh Secretary confirmed the scheme will be supported by 165 military personnel for their organising and logistical expertise, building on their experiences of assisting with mass testing in Liverpool.

Dr Andrew Goodall, the Chief Executive of NHS Wales, urged people in the county to take advantage of the test.

"We are appealing to the population of Merthyr to support us on this initiative, 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."

  • Who can get tested?

Anyone aged 11 and over without any symptoms can have a test, but children under 18 will need parental consent. 

Everyone living, studying and working in Merthyr Tydfil is advised to have two tests every 7 to 10 days, and people can request more if needed.

If you have already had a positive test within the past 90 days, you should get tested again unless you are positive and in your 10-day isolation period.  In that case, you should not get retested and should remain in isolation.

The council said home tests are also being considered for those on the shielding list.

  • I've had a test for coronavirus before. Will this be the same thing?

People will be offered a rapid test, known as lateral flow tests, which will give results within 20 to 30 minutes.

You’ll need to isolate in your car while you wait for your result, or go straight home if you don’t have a car.

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

People queue at a Coronavirus testing centre at the Liverpool Tennis Centre Credit: PA
  • Why do I need a second test?

The council said it is important if you test positive that you take the traditional swab test following the rapid one as it provides confirmation that you have Covid-19.

It is described as "a safety net" to ensure people are not asked to self-isolate when it might not be necessary. 

You will receive your lab test result from NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect via text message or email. If your second test comes back negative, you and your contacts can stop isolating.

You must still however continue to follow the national guidelines in Wales for stopping the spread of coronavirus, which include staying out of each other’s homes, except in very limited circumstances.

You must also continue to work from home if you can and wash your hands regularly.

Read more on the current guidelines here.

  • I want to get tested. Where do I go?

The testing programme will launch at Merthyr Tydfil's leisure centre on 21 November.

You can just turn up and do not need to book an appointment in advance. The council said it is well equipped with thousands of tests available and they are not expecting to run out of tests.

The full address for the testing site is:

  • Merthyr Leisure Village, Merthyr Tydfil, CF48 1UT

A total of 14 sites are due to open in the borough throughout November.

  • Do I need to take anything with me?

People will need to take a smartphone or give their email address.  If you don’t have a phone, you will be asked to give the phone number of a trusted person. This is so you can get your test results.

Information on additional sites will be available on the Merthyr Tydfil council website.