Transmission of COVID-19 is expected to continue until a vaccine is available or there is enough acquired immunity amongst our population for it to stop spreading. The lockdown restrictions have had a profound effect on the lives of all of us across Wales, they have also helped contribute to falling levels of infection. The virus remains a very serious threat to us all and so we must chart a course that helps avoid the risk of a second significant wave of infection.
We have always based our approach on the best available scientific evidence, health surveillance and international learning and will continue to do so.
Contact tracing has been, and is being used in countries around the world to limit the spread of the virus in the community by breaking the link in transmission. Contact tracing starts with self-reporting of symptoms, followed by testing suspected cases, tracing the contacts of those potentially infected and then protecting our families, friends and communities through self-isolation.
In Wales we have a robust public health system delivered by local health boards and local authorities with significant expertise in contact tracing which puts us in a strong position as we move into the next phase. For the next phase of the outbreak, we need to implement contact tracing on a scale never seen before.
That is why delivering Test, Trace, Protect will require partnership working: pooling our energies so that together, with common purpose, we can reduce the transmission of the virus. Public Health Wales, Local Health Boards, Local Authorities, third sector, academia, local business and other partners all have a role to play, working with the Welsh Government, if we are to succeed in easing restrictions, while at the same controlling the spread of infection.
Roles and Responsibilities
Individuals – following public health advice, hand washing, social distancing, reporting symptoms and self-isolating when necessary.
Welsh Government – provide strategic direction, oversight, determine priorities and provide resources to enable test, trace, protect.
Public Health Wales (PHW) – our expert National Public Health body providing leadership and specialist advice on public health approaches. Responsible for coordinating contact tracing, advising on sampling and testing, laboratory analysis of tests, health surveillance and providing expert health protection advice and analysis of the spread of the virus in our communities through a range of health surveillance indicators.
Local Health Boards and Local Authorities – providing a wealth of contact tracing experience and working in collaboration to deliver regionally coordinated local contact tracing teams – a mix of clinical and non-clinical staff who can support those who are symptomatic or have tested positive and their close contacts to stay safe. This will sit alongside their existing role to provide testing facilities and environmental and public health responses to local outbreaks and clusters or preventative action in areas regarded as high risk.
Crucially everyone in Wales needs to know and understand the symptoms to look out for and what to do if they, their family or friends develop them. Everyone has to be prepared to do what is right and protect themselves, their families and their communities through self-isolation.
So as we implement Test, Trace, Protect we will be guided by 3 key principles:
- Test Trace Protect in Wales will reflect the scientific evidence and our aim will be to maintain a UK-wide approach, only differing when our specific context requires it, and supported by the evidence. This is important because the Welsh public need to be clear about what is expected of them and their role in protecting themselves and others.
- We will deliver Test, Trace, Protect in partnership, consistent with our values and principles and reflecting the need for everyone to play their part in combatting the virus.
- Test, Trace, Protect will be designed to support citizens to contribute as much as they can to protecting themselves and others to encourage positive behaviour, making it easy for people to play their part in contact tracing and limit the spread of the virus and protecting the vulnerable.