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Coronavirus cases in Wales pass 10,000 mark

The number of people who have died from coronavirus approached 1,000, as opponents welcomed the government’s ‘U-turn’ on care home testing

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Wales has passed 10,000, health officials have announced.

Public Health Wales figures show the total amount of Covid-19 cases grew by 183 to 10,155 on Saturday, while a further 44 deaths brought the number of people who have died after testing positive to 969.

Dr Chris Williams, incident director for the Covid-19 outbreak response at PHW, said Wales appeared to have passed the peak of new cases, but repeated the warning that the public had to stay at home.

Dr Williams said: “We seem to have passed the peak and flattened the curve of new cases of Covid-19 in Wales, which appears to be an indication of the effectiveness of lockdown measures.

“We are currently working with the Welsh Government to determine the best approach for when the lockdown is eventually eased.

“In the meantime, social distancing rules remain in effect. Public Health Wales fully supports Welsh Government’s revised stay-at-home regulations. The message has not changed – anyone can get coronavirus, anyone can spread it. Stay home, protect the NHS, and save lives.”

Earlier on Saturday, health minister Vaughan Gething said the decision to extend tests to asymptomatic people in care homes which experience an outbreak was made to help manage the spread of the virus, after the PA news agency reported the government’s change in testing criteria on Friday.

Mr Gething said: “We are learning more about coronavirus every day – the evidence is constantly changing and emerging and we keep it under constant review.

“At the moment, the evidence does not support the blanket testing of everyone who does not have symptoms.

“But, in a care home setting, where there are some people who have symptoms of coronavirus and others who do not, testing everyone, including those who do not, does have a purpose – we will be doing this to help manage outbreaks.”

The Welsh Conservatives said they welcomed the “U-turn” on extending testing, but called on the Welsh Government to follow England’s lead and make tests available to all care homes regardless of whether there has been an outbreak.

Shadow social care minister Janet Finch-Saunders said: “Just two days ago the First Minister said he saw no value in testing everyone in care homes. This U-turn by the Welsh Government is very much welcomed by not just residents and staff in care homes but by their families and loved ones.

“Testing can help to reduce the spread of this deadly and horrid virus that is having a devastating impact on the most vulnerable in society. It is a shame that the extra capacity in the Wales Covid-19 testing programme couldn’t have been used sooner.

“Yesterday, the UK Government announced that they were carrying out more than 100,000 tests per day. In Wales, we have capacity to do just over 2,000 tests per day but we’re doing half that. We urge the Welsh Government to continue their U-turn and expand testing to all care home residents and staff.”

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price called on the government to publish evidence supporting its position to not automatically test those in care homes.

“Welsh Government says the evidence does not support ‘blanket testing’. They should publish that evidence swiftly so that it can be scrutinised to see how and why it differs from international evidence and best practice that promotes universal testing of all care home staff and residents,” he said.

The change in testing criteria is part of the government’s new three-stage plan to help care homes deal with outbreaks, with mobile units being sent to facilities and conduct tests on all residents and staff and potentially in neighbouring care homes, with a repeat testing the following week.

The plan also includes mobilising eight new mobile testing units from May 3 and home testing kits “when they become available”, as well as increasing guidance on cleaning, providing hand sanitiser and infection control measures.

PA