Covid: Free lateral flow tests extended in Wales as 1 in 45 people positive for coronavirus

The extension of free lateral flow tests comes amid rising coronavirus cases. Credit: PA

Access to free lateral flow tests has been extended in Wales until the end of July amid rising coronavirus cases.

An estimated 1 in 45 people in Wales currently have Covid-19, according to the latest Office for National Statistics survey.

The emergence of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are also contributing to this increase as they become more dominant across the UK.

Lateral flow tests will be available to the public that are showing symptoms of coronavirus (high temperature a new, continuous cough, a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste), alongside free access for people visiting someone eligible for new Covid-19 treatments.

Health minister Eluned Morgan announced the extension for free lateral flow tests on June 24.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said: "Testing has been an effective tool in breaking the chain of transmission and with an increase in cases its vital that we keep testing in place to protect the most vulnerable in our society.  As we have seen before, Covid can quickly change, I am announcing this extension in response to the changing picture and new variants of concern.

"I would also ask people to take protective measures to protect the more vulnerable in the community, wear masks in health and care settings, stay at home if you test positive, and  take up the offer for the vaccine. We know that the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, I would urge those eligible to have their spring booster if they have not already had it, the booster is available until June 30.

"Covid has not gone away, whilst we are learning to live safely with it, we will continue to monitor the situation and as we have done for the last two years, we will work together to Keep Wales Safe."

Available testing also in place in Wales

  • LFD and PCR testing for those eligible for COVID-19 treatments.

  • PCR testing for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses for symptomatic care home residents and prisoners.

  • PCR and LFD testing under the patient testing framework and when clinically advised including pre-operative hospital patients and care home residents returning from inpatient hospital stays

  • LFD testing for symptomatic health and social care staff.

  • Twice weekly LFD tests for asymptomatic testing for health and social care staff

Those visiting people in care homes should continue to test using tests provided by the care home they are visiting, the health minister added.

Self-isolation payments of £500 will end on June 30, while the Covid-19 Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement scheme will be extended until August 31 to support social care staff to stay away from work due to testing positive.

Wales' chief medical officer, Frank Atherton, said: "The vaccines do appear to be holding that line between high levels of community transmission and the amount of harm that we're seeing, so although naturally we do see some harm, we're hoping that that will be limited.

"I think we're going to continue to see those dips, those surges every three or four months until the thing settles down into a more seasonal pattern."

Covid-19 infections have risen in all four nations of the UK.

What is the picture across the UK?

Covid-19 infections increased in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in the latest week (ending 11 June 2022 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and ending 10 June 2022 for Scotland).

The estimated percentage of the community population that had Covid-19, according to the Office For National Statistics was:

  • 2.07% in England (1 in 50 people)

  • 2.13% in Wales (1 in 45 people)

  • 2.34% in Northern Ireland (1 in 45 people)

  • 3.36% in Scotland (1 in 30 people)

An estimated two million people in private households (3.1% of the population) were experiencing self-reported long Covid as of 1 May 2022.

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