Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services.
I want to inform Members of our plans to extend the COVID-19 whole area testing pilot into the lower Cynon valley.
Since 21 November, everyone living, working or studying in Merthyr Tydfil borough has been offered COVID-19 testing. The pilot in Merthyr continues to go well with almost 8000 tested in the first 6 days of the pilot.
From Saturday 5th December the pilot area will be extended into the lower Cynon valley.
Our aims in delivering the area testing pilot remain to:
- protect residents at highest risk;
- test the maximum number of inhabitants living in the area to identify the virus, wherever it is, and empower the local community to arrest and reduce the community spread in order to save lives and save livelihoods; and
- provide us with an even greater understanding of prevalence within the community and how many people are asymptomatic.
To achieve these aims we are seeking to work with the communities and people living in the lower Cynon valley to embrace the testing being offered and help keep the area safe.
This is being delivered through a collaborative partnership between the Welsh Government, UK Government, Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and the Ministry of Defence, with support for planning from Armed Forces personnel. There has been an impressive can-do attitude from all partners who have shown initiative and creativity in developing solutions for delivery.
All residents without symptoms will be offered repeat COVID-19 testing to help find more positive cases and break the chains of transmission. Asymptomatic test sites will be established at various locations including Abercwmboi, Abercynon, Cwmaman, Mountain Ash and Penrhiwceiber. Students and staff at Mountain Ash Secondary School will also be offered tests.
Residents who have COVID-19 symptoms should continue to access testing in the normal way.
As in Merthyr Tydfil, Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) will be used. Everyone who attends any of the sites will be given a test using the devices, which can turnaround results within around 30 minutes. If an individual tests positive via a LFD test, they will be asked to self-isolate immediately and they will be offered a confirmatory traditional swab test.
Learning from this mass testing pilot, in Merthyr and the lower Cynon valley, will provide further vital information to help inform future rollout of mass testing in Wales.