A major part of this plan is “Test, Track and Trace”, a series of measures to control the transmission of the virus as day to day life slowly returns to normality.
Its success will depend on a robust infrastructure being put in place across Wales and will be vital to the speed at which lockdown measures are lifted.
What is test, track and trace?
The ‘Test, Track and Trace’ strategy is made up of three components. Welsh Government hopes that by increasing testing, tracking the spread of the virus, and tracing those who have come into contact with infected individuals, will help them slow the rate of transmission of the virus and prevent a major spike in cases.
Sampling and testing will form a key part of this response. The government aims to expand access to testing over the coming weeks using drive-through centres, mobile vans and home-testing.
Contact tracing will identify those who have come into contact with someone suspected of having Covid-19. Both the UK and Welsh Governments used contact tracing during the early phase of the disease to contain its spread.
It is a labour-intensive process that requires at least 1,000 staff, deployed by local councils and health boards, and supported by technology to contact multiple individuals for every person who tests positive.
Tracking will consist of surveillance measures to help establish the nature and spread of Covid-19 within our hospitals, care homes and communities. The tracking will likely consist of a mobile app where people upload data if they become symptomatic.
How many tests will need to be carried out?
The Welsh Government says up to 20,000 tests a day will need to be carried out for the plan to be effective.
Current testing capacity now stands at 5,330 tests a day in Wales, however according to the Office of National Statistics, just 1,087 tests were carried out on Tuesday, May 12.
How close are we to having it in place?
In short, we are not sure yet.
Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething MS told the Senedd’s virtual meeting on Wednesday that he hopes to have 10,000 tests a day by the end of May.
Mr Gething had previously set a target of 5,000 tests a day in April, before dropping it when the target was not met. It is not clear when Welsh Government hopes to have 20,000 daily tests in place.
The government is working with local councils and health boards to deploy the 1,000 staff needed to carry out contact tracing.
Tracking will rely on a UK-wide digital app which is currently being trialled by residents on the Isle of Wight. It is not yet ready to be rolled out across the country.
What will it mean for me?
‘Test, Track and Trace’ will be dependent on people’s cooperation. Its success could mean a lifting of lockdown measures, people returning to work and day to day life returning to normality.
People with symptoms will still be required to isolate immediately, as will those they live with.
A test will then be carried out as soon as possible. Those testing positive will be required to self-isolate, but people who test negative will be able to return to their normal routines.
People testing positive will be asked to upload their data to the UK-wide digital app as well as provide information of others they have been in close contact with.
Those who have been in contact with people who are symptomatic and who test positive will also be required to self-isolate until they are tested to check whether they have Covid-19.
What will it mean for those who are shielding?
It is not understood what the implementation of ‘Test, Track and Trace’ will mean for vulnerable people who are shielding.
It is being widely reported that those who are shielding will be asked to continue to do so until a vaccine has been developed, effective treatment in place, or the number of cases in the community is at a level where the likelihood of transmission is low.
What are the government saying about it?
Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “Implementation of our Response Plan will be one of the biggest public health challenges Wales will ever face. There are no quick fixes here. We know that Covid-19 will continue to be transmitted until we have a vaccine, or there is enough acquired immunity within the population.
“We have already asked a great deal of the people of Wales and the response has been humbling. We will now need to ask even more of you all for this plan to succeed. This plan is, and must remain, a joint initiative working with all our partners across Wales.
“Everything we are doing already is helping to reduce the spread of the virus. Having seen the sacrifices people have made over the last 6 weeks, I know that the scale of this challenge is more than matched by how determined all of us are to beat this virus. And in so doing, honouring every single person who has so tragically lost their lives to Covid-19.”
How have their opponents responded?
Welsh Conservative health spokeswoman, Angela Burns MS, said the plan was “better late than never”, but added: “The devil will be in the detail, and at the moment this announcement is more of an outline, rather than a definitive plan.”
Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said a strategy “is only as good as its implementation plan and there’s no detailed plan here that I can see to put the already widely accepted principles of the need to test and trace into practice”.
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