The First Minister has acknowledged there are still serious shortcomings in the UK Government’s privately run Lighthouse Labs Covid testing centres which have left some people waiting several days for tests.
For over a month there have been both limited tests and overly long waits for results in Lighthouse Labs, which constitute many of Wales’ drive-in test centres such as the Cardiff City Stadium.
People booking tests are told: “You’ll receive your test results by text message. Most people get their results within 48 hours, but it could take up to five days.”
But on social media message boards, people say they are waiting well over 48 hours, which can mean children missing school and whole families self-isolating.
A month ago, just as cases were spiking again, the Welsh Ambulance Service and Rhondda Cynon Taf council had to set up emergency testing centres after the Lighthouse Labs limited tests to just 60 a day. You can read more about that story here. The shortages even led to people in South Wales being sent to Manchester and Inverness to secure a test after they had symptoms.
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The First Minister was asked by Gist Vile about the ongoing issues, which are seeing people wait four or five days for their test results. Mr Drakeford said he had been given assurances that the issues were being dealt with.
He said: “I can tell you what we are told by the people who are responsible for the Lighthouse Labs, because the Welsh Government does not run the Lighthouse Labs.
“At the Cobra meeting which I attended this week there was a direct report from Dido Harding, the person the Prime Minister has put in charge of that system. She acknowledged that there have been delays and she said that they are practically driven.
“You have a system that is working flat out. If people fall ill, a piece of equipment breaks down, if a delivery of reagent chemicals is delayed, then that leads to delays in turn around times. She gave us an assurance that everything is been done to improve that position and that she was confident that it would improve.”
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Mr Drakeford said the issue of testing numbers had already been ironed out but said that the turnaround times were “not where we would like them to be”.
He said: “Certainly we saw last week an improvement in the volume of tests available through Lighthouse Labs here in Wales. In fact, last week in Wales there were hundreds of tests that weren’t take up. So we weren’t facing a problem of capacity, which is a problem we did face through the Lighthouse Labs just two weeks ago.
“But turnaround times are not where we would like them to be, that was acknowledged by those responsible for it, and they did set out for us the actions they will take to try and make sure that that position will improve, as rapidly as they can do.”