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Merthyr Tydfil County Borough to be first whole area testing pilot in Wales

Bwrdeistref Sirol Merthyr Tudful fydd yr ardal gyfan gyntaf i gael profion torfol yng Nghymru

Everyone living or working in Merthyr Tydfil will be offered COVID-19 testing, whether they have symptoms or not - as part of the first mass testing of a whole area in Wales.

Everyone living or working in Merthyr Tydfil will be offered COVID-19 testing, whether they have symptoms or not -  as part of the first mass testing of a whole area in Wales.

All residents and workers will be offered repeat COVID-19 testing from this Saturday (21st November) to help find more positive cases and break the chains of transmission.

The move will be delivered through a partnership between the Welsh Government, UK Government, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board and the Ministry of Defence, with logistical support from Armed Forces personnel.

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms should book a test online or by calling 119 to attend an existing testing site for a PCR self-swab test. Those without symptoms should attend the new mass testing sites in Merthyr.

The first site will open at Merthyr Tydfil leisure centre on Saturday 21st November with further sites due to open throughout the county borough later this month. Thousands of lateral flow tests will be available for residents and workers of Merthyr and citizens can find out how to access these tests by visiting www.merthyr.gov.uk/covidtesting

The mass testing programme will also see the use of Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) in Wales for the first time. Everyone who attends any of the asymptomatic test sites in Merthyr Tydfil will be given a test using the devices, which can turnaround results within around 20-30 minutes.

If an individual tests positive via a LFD test, they will be asked to return home so they can self-isolate immediately.

Building on the learnings from the first mass testing pilot in Liverpool, the whole town pilot in Merthyr will provide vital information to help inform further roll-out of mass testing technology in future.

We will be closely monitoring the number of positive results to help us better understand the spread of the virus which will in turn inform actions to prevent further transmission.

Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething, said:

“This is the first time we have rolled out mass testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic people in Wales. It will give us an even greater understanding of prevalence within the community and how many people have Covid.

“We have chosen Merthyr as it has a high prevalence and this mass testing will also help to slow down the spread of the virus in the area.

“The introduction of the rapid testing Lateral Flow Devices is a boost to our Test, Trace, Protect strategy and will speed up the process hugely. This is vital technology which I hope will play an important role in our fight against this deadly virus.”

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Leader Cllr Kevin O’Neill said:

"We’ve all been alarmed by the high number of cases in Merthyr Tydfil and action is needed to respond as a community to protect our residents.

“Testing is important even if you don’t have symptoms.  We learned this week that in Liverpool, where a Covid-19 testing trial has been carried out, 700 people were found to have unknowingly had the virus - these were cases that would not have been detected otherwise.

“The Council will be throwing its support behind this significant undertaking in the coming weeks and encouraging as many of our residents as possible to play their part in trying to bring this virus under some sort of control.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“By testing more people, including those without symptoms, we are able to find more positive cases of the virus and break chains of transmission. Building on the learnings from the first whole city testing pilot in Liverpool and using the latest rapid tests, this pilot in Merthyr will provide vital understanding of how we can further roll-out mass testing, as well as suppressing the virus and peace of mind for residents of Merthyr.

“I want to thank the Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council, Welsh Government and the armed forces for their work in making this pilot possible and bringing a test to everyone who needs one.

“I urge everyone in Merthyr to play their part in bringing this virus under control by getting a test, and by following restrictions in place.”

Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection Baroness Dido Harding said:

“Our next whole-town testing pilot on Merthyr is an exciting step forward in rolling out mass testing across the UK. Rapid lateral flow tests will deliver results quickly, and testing those without symptoms means we will identify more positive cases of the virus.

“NHS Test and Trace will continue to support and work closely with the Welsh Government and local leaders to launch and evaluate the pilot. By coming forward, getting a test and isolating if told to, residents in Merthyr will play a huge role in stopping the spread of the virus.”

Notes to editors

  • Anyone who tests positive, using either a lateral flow test or an existing swab test, will be informed of their result via text and email by NHS Wales’ Test, Trace, Protect and must self-isolate along with their household immediately and their contacts will be traced. Eligible individuals who test positive – and contacts who are required to self-isolate – will be entitled to the £500 self-isolation payment in the same way as a regular swab test. Those who test negative will need to continue to follow all national guidance.
  • Alongside local and national public bodies and private sector partners, the Ministry of Defence will supply additional military personnel to support the COVID-19 mass testing initiative in Merthyr Tydfil through assisting local authorities with planning all aspects of Whole Town Testing and delivering the additional lateral flow testing part of the programme. Around 175 personnel will be deployed from 20 Nov 20.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, the Armed Forces have deployed specialist planners, medics and logisticians to assist with the Government response to the outbreak through the COVID Support Force. When the national testing programme launched, the Armed Forces provided invaluable support, deploying thousands of personnel at short notice across 236 mobile testing units,facilitating nearly one million tests. As part of the sustainable testing model for the long term, personnel were replaced with civilian operators, but Armed Forces have continued to bolster local logistics and outbreak management.