Wales Covid-19 Evidence Centre to 'shape' response to pandemic

By Alun Jones
BBC Wales Political Unit

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image captionResearch is crucial to improving understanding and treatment of coronavirus, say Welsh ministers

A Wales Covid-19 Evidence Centre is being established to "shape" the Welsh Government's response to the pandemic.

The centre will have an initial budget of £3m over two years from this month.

Wellbeing minister Eluned Morgan decided to establish the centre to "provide a Welsh-specific programme of research, evidence synthesis and knowledge mobilisation".

But an opposition Senedd member says resources should be concentrated at a UK level rather than "duplicating".

A Welsh Government spokesperson told BBC Wales: "Research is crucial in developing our understanding and treatment of coronavirus.

"To support rapid access to evidence, the Wales Covid-19 Evidence Centre will fund a Wales-focused programme of research over the coming two years.

"This will be used to shape our response to the coronavirus pandemic and how it impacts on health and care in Wales."

image caption"Wales would benefit more by being part of a UK coronavirus evidence centre," says Mark Reckless

But Mark Reckless, one of two Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party members in the Senedd, said "research and evidence on coronavirus is crucial, but we should concentrate resources at a UK level, rather than splitting money among the four nations to duplicate work".

"Wales would surely benefit more by being part of a UK coronavirus evidence centre with a budget of, say, £60 million, instead of setting up its own with a budget of just £3 million."

According to the advertisement for the role of the centre's director, "what is needed is a responsive and flexible evidence and research capability which can work closely with Welsh Government officials and leaders in the NHS and social care in Wales to bring evidence to bear on decision making effectively."

It adds: "There is a need both for rapid evidence synthesis to make use of the huge research base that has now developed and for the capacity to undertake some rapid primary research in Wales targeted on specific and localised research issues or needs."

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image captionIn December there was pressure to produce evidence to support hospitality restrictions

Welsh Government ministers receive advice from several sources, including scientific guidance from its Technical Advisory Cell.

In December, the Welsh Government faced pressure to produce evidence to support tough new restrictions on the hospitality industry to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

It published a report by TAC, referring to a paper issued by UK ministers that pulls together some of the information that helps scientists understand where transmission is occurring.