Wales failing to meet 5,000 daily coronavirus tests target

The Welsh Government is failing to meet its target of 5,000 tests a day for front-line workers, the country’s Health Secretary has admitted.

Vaughan Gething said Wales can only provide 1,300 tests a day despite previously saying the number would increase by mid-April before hitting 9,000 tests at the end of the month.

On Tuesday, the number of deaths in Wales rose by 19 to 403, while the number of confirmed cases increased by 238 to 5,848.

HEALTH Coronavirus Wales
HEALTH Coronavirus Wales

Mr Gething told Wales’ daily coronavirus briefing he was unable to say what the testing capacity for key workers will be at the end of this week but spoke of his “frustration” that even the current numbers of tests available are not being taken up.

It comes a day after the drive-through testing centre at the Cardiff City Stadium was temporarily shut on Bank Holiday Monday because of the low number of key workers who had been referred to it that day.

The workers booked in on Monday had their tests moved a day earlier but Mr Gething said the low uptake showed a “visible sign of where something hasn’t worked” and said he would ask Public Health Wales to review procedures.

He said: “We have capacity that is not used because we haven’t had referrals in. We need to make use of that capacity.

“I would much rather be in a position where referrals are coming in and we have a modest backlog to work through rather than not having enough referrals to come in to make use of the capacity that we have.”

Mr Gething said only 12 of Wales’ 22 local authorities have so far referred their social care workers to have tests, of which there are currently enough for more than 100 workers each day.

He said: “My frustration I’m sure is sure borne out and multiplied by front-line staff who are waiting and self-isolating at home who are thinking if they had a test they would be able to understand if they’re Covid-19-free and be able to return to work.

“I expect over this week to see much better take up of our usage.”

After his comments, Conservative health spokeswoman Angela Burns called the failure to increase testing of key workers a “scandal”.

Ms Burns described the testing process as “overly complicated, drowning in bureaucracy and fragmented, and therefore inconsistent across Wales and poorly understood”.

She said: “Health boards have different systems, county and borough councils have different systems, results appear to be very slow, and it seems that care homes are not clear what the system is, while Public Health Wales is slow in pushing out results.

“People are waiting days longer than they should for results.”

Mr Gething rejected suggestions a UK-wide procurement system orchestrated by the UK Government will lead to a shortage of PPE for Welsh care providers, despite some suppliers of equipment reportedly being turned away by manufacturers.

He said the UK-wide approach benefits Wales as a “relatively small country in a global market” and will as a result receive a proportion of PPE based on its population

But he added rules are needed to ensure fairness.

Mr Gething also questioned UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement that the Welsh Government will receive an additional £350 million on top of the £250 million allocated from the £5 billion Covid-19 fund.

Mr Gething said: “We still haven’t seen all of that money. It’s not clear that £350 million is the figure. We’re still trying to work out where that comes from.

“It would be much better for all of us if we were to get clarity on this before the announcement was made, rather than trying to work out afterwards what the headline figure means.

“At present it doesn’t appear to us there is £350 million of additional funding on top of previous funding announcements and I’m keen to get clarity on that because choices have to be made on how that money gets used on people here in Wales.”

Mr Gething also revealed of the 1,073 care homes in Wales, 75 have confirmed cases of coronavirus and 217 have suspected cases.

He said 128 tests have been carried out in care homes in the last week and that a total number of tests carried out would soon be publicly available.