Covid-19: £60m to extend contact tracing in Wales and tackle new variants

100321 Contact tracing

Health boards in Wales will get an extra £50m to extend Covid-19 contact tracing until the end of September 2021.

That's in addition to the £10m already announced by the Welsh Government.

The health minister said the money would fund the currant contact tracing workforce until the end of September and fund improvements to their digital systems.

Vaughan Gething also announced that close contacts of people who had tested positive for Covid-19, and been asked to isolate, will now be offered a coronavirus test.

Mr Gething said: “Although new case numbers have responded well to the current lockdown restrictions, there are significant uncertainties around the trajectory of the pandemic which means it is highly likely we will need to maintain a substantial contact tracing operation for the foreseeable future."

“Even with the roll-out of the vaccination programme, testing and tracing will remain a vital part of our approach as lockdown restrictions ease and to tackle any new variants as people arrive from overseas.”

The £22 billion Test and Trace scheme in England has been criticised in a report which claims there was “no clear evidence” it contributed to a reduction on coronavirus transmission.

In contrast, Mr Gething said Wales' system had been "successful" and that it played a "pivotal role in helping to protect everyone in Wales."

He said: "Contact tracing is a public service run by people who know the local area. Wenow have a team of 2,000 contract tracers and advisers working acrossWales.

"Since June, they have reached 99.6% of people who have tested positive forcoronavirus and were eligible for follow-up. They have also successfullyreached 95% of their close contacts and advised them about self-isolating."

People who are close contacts of someone who has tested positive will be asked to take a test as they start their self-isolation period. They will then be asked to take a test again on day eight.

The Welsh Government also said if you are identified as a close contact by contact and trace you will need to isolate for the full 10 days even if the test comes back negative as it can take up to 10 days or more for symptoms to develop or for the virus to appear in your system.

Mr Gething confirmed on Wednesday that people who are currently or have recently experienced homelessness will be prioritised for the coronavirus vaccine in Wales.

They will be moved into priority group 6 because they are more likely to have an underlying health condition which puts them at increased risk of Covid.

Yesterday, Public Health Wales data revealed more than one million people across Wales had been given the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

It means that almost 40% of the adult population now have a level of protection from Covid-19.

On Friday the Welsh Government is due to review current coronavirus restrictions in Wales.

The First Minister has suggested there could me some changes to the restrictions with the 'Stay at Home' rule likely to be eased.