Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething has announced nearly £32 million to speed up Covid-19 testing turnaround times.
The government hopes to deliver faster results for contact tracing and prepare Wales for any increases in cases during the autumn and winter with the new investment.
The funding will be used for extra staff and equipment for the Public Health Wales regional laboratories based at University Hospital Wales, Cardiff; Singleton Hospital, Swansea and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd Rhyl, in a bid to operate them 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
It will also support the creation of six Hot Labs at acute hospitals across Wales, which will have rapid, under four hour, testing equipment and new testing equipment for other conditions to free up staff to work on Covid-19 testing.
It is expected the three regional laboratories will be able to operate 24 hours from October and the six new Hot labs will be up and running in November.
Gething said: “I hope we don’t need to use all the testing capacity this investment will create but we have to be prepared. The science tells us the virus will spread more quickly in the colder, wetter months so we can expect an increase in spread later this year.”
“This investment will increase our resilience and ensure our testing and contact tracing systems are robust enough to deal with whatever winter brings.”
Dr Tracey Cooper, chief executive of Public Health Wales, added that the agency has already launched a recruitment drive to recruit up to 160 staff into the new roles made possible by this investment.
“This investment will allow us to make some fundamental changes to our laboratory services that will significantly increase their capacity and resilience, both in the context of the current pandemic and in the longer term,” Cooper said.
Nearly £8 million will be earmarked as an initial outlay on staffing and new equipment and the cost of carrying out tests is expected to vary between £8 – £24m depending on demand.