Coronavirus: Hundreds of positive Covid-19 tests added

Test sample Image copyright Getty Images

Hundreds of cases of coronavirus have now been added to official Public Health Wales (PHW) figures.

Results from more than 70,000 tests from non-NHS laboratories have been displayed separately from the headline statistics published daily up until now.

But these are now being added, showing 1,049 cases.

PHW said it had been "working for some time to present as complete a picture as possible" of Covid-19 data.

The latest figures show 25 new cases - 16 processed by PHW laboratories and nine from commercial, non-NHS labs.

PHW admitted that integrating the new data alongside its own reporting system had been complex.

But it said it had made "good progress" and from Saturday had been able to introduce additional reporting into its daily information.

"As a result we are reporting increases today in our total case numbers and to our daily total of new cases," said a spokesman.

"This is to be expected when we include results from increased testing capacity, with more people encouraged to get tested. The data have been previously displayed separately on our dashboard."

It said it was likely to be overestimating individual cases at this stage and work was "ongoing to remove duplicate entries as quickly as we can".

Image caption Prof Gabriel Scally said any glitches "interferes with the smooth running of what needs to be a very smooth operation"

All four UK nations have used commercial testing to boost capacity.

Home kits and tests performed in some test centres in Wales are processed in a network of diagnostic Lighthouse Labs in England, while those performed in hospitals and other test centres are processed by NHS Wales.

Ahead of the new data being published, epidemiologist Prof Gabriel Scally, a member of Independent SAGE group, warned that not having all positive cases in the data together would be a "further handicap" to eliminating coronavirus in Wales.

"Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland should really be aiming to get down to zero cases and eliminate domestic transmission," he said.

"That's the way forward - and to do that you need good testing and good data.

"Any glitches around information not being compatible or not being available, or being for number of tests rather than number of individuals - all of that interferes with the smooth running of what needs to be a very smooth operation."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Drive-through testing areas have been set-up around Wales in a bid to reduce the spread of Covid-19

While he accepted that using commercial laboratories meant more tests could be done, he said the system was not "fit for purpose" because it took too long to send tests to English labs, leading to delays in contact tracing.

"The overall system should be restructured. It should be based locally and operate locally and be successful locally," he said.

Coronavirus cases from Wales

Positive cases by day from non-NHS laboratories

Tests conducted on Welsh residents, includes results from home tests and drive-through centres
Source: Public Health Wales, 11 July 2020

The PHW dashboard shows nearly 157,000 tests by its laboratories but there have also been 74,612 tests in non-NHS Wales labs.

These saw nine positive tests reported on Sunday, bringing the total from this source to 1,058.

PHW epidemiologist Dr Chris Williams clarified that the positive commercial lab data was also used as part of the Test, Trace, Protect system, adding that using non-Welsh laboratories meant anyone could get a test.

"Testing was offered to everybody in the UK on demand," said Dr Williams.

"We all signed up to that because it's a good idea to offer people testing.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption At the start of the pandemic, people were only tested for coronavirus if they went into hospital

"That was through the UK portal - what's called the Lighthouse Labs. That meant that people could sign up to have a test posted to them or arrange to do it by another means.

"The general population picked up on the opportunity of those tests, and also some of our health boards have been using that capacity to do some of their local testing."

The Welsh government said it recognised "the importance of fast turnaround times".

"To that end, and to help protect our critical workers including health and care workers, we're making use of Welsh labs and the UK-wide Lighthouse Lab system."

Scotland has been integrating commercial Lighthouse Labs data with its own initiatives since 15 June, while Northern Ireland has integrated the data as of 25 June.

On 2 July, Public Health England increased the public availability of positive case data to include community testing after criticism its figures did not reflect the true number of new cases.

Meanwhile, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the fall in numbers of positive tests was because there was less coronavirus around but he recognised faster results were important.

"We do want to make sure the tests come back more quickly and we are beginning to see moves in that direction," he said.

"Where things are urgent, as they were in north Wales in the two outbreaks we had there then we were able to make sure that the vast majority of tests were back within 24 hours."

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