Posted: Wed 15th Apr 2020

North Wales council leader describes coronavirus testing system as ‘complex and shambolic’

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Apr 15th, 2020

A North Wales council leader has described the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 testing system as “complex and shambolic”.

Following criticism of a decision to shut Cardiff City Stadium’s drive-in testing facility on Easter Monday, health minister Vaughan Gething implied that this was due to not enough key workers and social care staff being referred for testing by local authorities and other public bodies.

But this has drawn an angry response from the leader of Gwynedd Council, who claims that many of the names put forward were “ineligible” for testing and has called for an “efficient and simple testing regime”.

“I am at a loss to hear the Health Minister accuse local authorities of not taking up their quota of Covid-19 testing,” said Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn.

“Should he not ask us why, instead of casting unfounded aspersions?

“Local authorities have been clamouring for an efficient full testing regime for our frontline staff over the last three weeks.

“Instead, what we have is a complex, shambolic system which involves reference to the health boards, Public Health Wales, Data Cymru and local authorities.

“There is a long chain of bureaucracy, complexities and layers before results reach us.

“Furthermore, we find that many of the names put forward for testing are ineligible for reasons difficult to understand.”

Earlier this month, the First Minister claimed there would be 5,000 tests a day by the middle of April and 9,000 a day by the end of the month.

But with Wales currently having capacity to conduct 1,300 tests, only 678 were carried out on Monday.

During Tuesday’s daily press conference, Vaughan Gething had blamed the shortfall on a lack of referrals for frontline workers to have tests, noting his “frustration” that the “maximum capacity” for testing was not being used.

“We need to do much more to maximise the capacity that exists. It is really frustrating for me that we haven’t maximised that capacity,” he said.

“We both need to increase our capacity and make use of it. It is both, not one or the other.”

“Every part of the system needs to refer their staff to make sure the capacity is used.

“I know for example that 12 local authorities have referred in their social care workers to have tests.

“But actually every local authority can make use of that and we have the capacity to test over 100 social care workers each day. That means those referrals need to be made.”

But Ynys Mon AM Rhun ap Iorweth says that the Welsh Government needs to “get a grip on the crisis,” adding:  “The running total in Wales was meant to be over 100,000. Instead we’re on 21,169.

“Yes, there was a collapsed deal, and a suggestion that Welsh Government had had testing capacity taken away from it, but even so this is way behind where we could and should be.

“The World Health Organisation has consistently said that testing is the ‘backbone’ of the fight against coronavirus.

“Time and time again we’re told ‘it’ll be OK, we’re steadily increasing capacity’.  But not only are the testing figures not only growing, but appear to be slipping backwards.

“If the red tape is the problem for the Health Minister as he suggests, then he needs to remember that he has the power to cut it.

“Key workers aren’t being tested. Tests are too slow coming back. We need to urgently increase capacity and simplify the testing system.”

By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter

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