Alarm at future of community testing after portal launch delayed
Plaid Cymru have expressed concern about the future of community testing and a lack of details about how to increase testing capacity after an online booking system for coronavirus tests for key workers in Wales was delayed for a second week.
The website, which is being developed by Welsh Government and online retailer Amazon, was due to launch last week but the First Minister confirmed yesterday on the BBC’s Politics Wales programme that he hoped it would be operational “next week”.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth said the delay in launching the portal was “as concerning and troubling” as the gap between testing capacity and the number of daily tests conducted.
Mr ap Iorwerth said that without moving towards a Wales-wide “mass testing programme” of testing, tracing and isolating there was no way to begin to lift lockdown restrictions safely.
The Shadow Health Minister warned that to move to a model of community testing would require “significant additional resource” and that there was “little evidence” that the Welsh Government were putting the necessary “extra measures” in place to move to such a model.
Mr ap Iorwerth questioned why there appeared to be little discussion between Welsh Government and Health Boards and Councils regarding the “significant increase in public testing” that would be required to lift lockdown restrictions and why there wasn’t a clear timescale in place for increasing the number of tests.
The Shadow Health Minister warned that there should be no more “false promises” and “missed targets.
The Welsh Government missed two testing targets which would have seen Wales testing 8,000 key workers daily. The testing targets were later scrapped completely.
Shadow Minister for Health Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said,
“The Amazon testing portal was due to go live today. Now it isn’t. This is the second week of delay - which is as concerning and troubling as the gap that remains between actual testing capacity and the number of daily tests that are being carried out.
“We can’t prepare for lifting lockdown restrictions without a clear plan for a Wales-wide mass testing programme - testing, tracing and containing. Without a vaccine or new treatments, there is no other alternative.
“But moving to community testing and tracing requires significant additional resource. Current testing resource hasn’t led to an increase in the numbers of tests and there’s little evidence that the Government is putting in place the necessary extra measures needed to move us towards a model of community testing.
“It appears that there hasn’t there been in-depth discussions between Welsh Government and Health Boards and Councils regarding the significant increase in public testing that will be required before lockdown restrictions can be lifted. Why isn’t there a timescale for increasing the number of tests, and how many tests per day are planned, for the period when lockdown restrictions are starting to be lifted?
“We can’t have more false promises and missed targets. Going backwards on testing is no way to break the lockdown.