Hundreds tested in Merthyr Tydfil on first day of mass testing

There were long lines of people queuing as mass testing in Merthyr Tydfil began Credit: PA Images

Hundreds of people living and working in Merthyr Tydfil were tested in the town on the first day mass testing was introduced to try and stem significantly high coronavirus case numbers.

Queues had begun forming early on Saturday morning outside the Rhydycar Leisure Centre as people waited to be given lateral flow tests, which produce a result in around 25 minutes.

Anyone who tests positive is then given a traditional swab test before being asked to return home immediately to in order to self-isolate.

Merthyr Tydfil is the first town in Wales to introduce mass testing.

It follows a similar mass testing project that has been ongoing in Liverpool.

A similar mass testing project has been ongoing in Liverpool Credit: PA Images

In what is a huge logistical operation, the military is assisting with the rollout of the mass testing project with 13 more sites to run from Monday.

Brigadier Andrew Dawes, Military Commander for Wales, said a military presence would be visible over the coming weeks.

He said: "We're here really to make sure that we can replicate these sorts of facilities across the communities, to make sure they're easier to access for people.

"So over the next couple of weeks you'll see about 170 RAF personnel come and support sites similar to this elsewhere."

In an interview with ITV Wales on Wednesday Kevin O'Neill, Leader of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, said mass testing would enable health officials in the town to seek out asymptomatic cases of coronavirus - where a person has the virus and can be infectious without realising.

Turnout and participation on the first day of Merthyr's mass testing was high.

There had been some concerns that by having long lines of people queuing it could in turn act as a transmission risk.

Around 170 military personnel are assisting with Merthyr's mass testing

However, Lisa Mytton, Deputy Leader of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, said she believed the safety measures in place would insure against any possible transmission of covid-19 at the testing site.

She said: "I believe it won't because everybody's adhering to wearing masks.

"Some are wearing masks both outside, but obviously inside the building.

"We're sanitising everybody. There's full PPE in place as well and we are adhering to the two metres social distances."

Coronavirus case numbers have been particularly high in Merthyr Tydfil, with the town briefly ranking as the worst affected area in the UK.

Although it has since seen a drop since Wales entered a two-week firebreak lockdown, with cases dropping from around 770 cases per 100,000; to below 260 per 100,000.

Last week Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, said the pilot would provide "vital understanding" on how mass testing can be rolled out across the UK.

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