This vital service plays a key role in Keeping Powys Safe by:
- Testing people with coronavirus symptoms, asking them to isolate from wider family, friends and the community.
- Tracing those who have been in close contact with people with coronavirus.
- Providing advice and guidance, which is particularly important if the person with symptoms or their contacts are in the shielding group or have other risk factors.
- Ensuring that if symptoms are not due to coronavirus that people can get back to their normal lives as soon as possible.
This has taken an enormous amount of work across the county, and will continue to do so for as long as coronavirus remains a major threat to public health. We would like to thank everyone involved in establishing and delivering this vital service.
Progress So Far: Testing
In Powys we have a comprehensive testing programme in place. This includes a range of testing options in place to make this as convenient as possible:
- A Home Testing Kit
- A local test here in the county at our drive-through facilities in north, mid and south Powys
- Drive-through testing in neighbouring counties
- Testing in hospitals and closed settings such as care homes
More details are available from www.powysthb.wales.nhs.uk/coronavirus-testing including how to request a test if you have symptoms.
From next week, our testing facilities at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells and at NPTC Newtown / Theatr Hafren in Newtown will also be available for you to book direct:
- Members of the public: www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test
- Critical workers: www.gov.uk/apply-coronavirus-test-essential-workers
The current testing programme is an “antigen test”. It uses a swab (normally in the throat and/or nose) to test whether you currently have the virus. The test works best between 2 and 7 days after your symptoms start.
Progress So Far: Contact Tracing
Our testing programme is supported by our new Contact Tracing service. This brings together colleagues from the Council and the Health Board.
If you have been in contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus you may be contacted by our Contact Tracing team. They may advise you to self-isolate, and to request a test if you show any symptoms of the virus. Your Contact Tracing advisor will talk you through this and support you. The team has already been in contact with 19 people from Powys who have tested positive for coronavirus, helping to stop the spread in the county.
Across the UK there have been some reports of scams in operation. We would like to reinforce that our contact tracers will:
- Never ask you to dial a premium rate number.
- Never ask for payment or bank details.
- Never ask for password or PIN numbers, or ask you to set up passwords over the phone.
- Never disclose your personal or medical information to your contacts.
- Never ask you to download any software to your PC or phone, or ask you to hand over control of your device.
We also have clear guidelines in place to protect personal and confidential information. You can read our privacy notice at www.powysthb.wales.nhs.uk/test-trace-protect-privacy
More information about Contact Tracing in Wales is available from the Welsh Government website at https://gov.wales/contact-tracing-your-questions
Next Steps: Antibody Testing
Most recently, the Chief Medical Officer has also asked local health board’s in Wales to begin antibody testing. This tests whether someone has previously been exposed to coronavirus infection and developed antibodies.
The programme of testing will provide important information on the prevalence of coronavirus in different settings and help us better understand how the disease spreads.
Whilst a positive antibody test will show that someone has had the virus, but:
- It does not mean that they have immunity
- It does not mean that they cannot pass on to others, or
- It does not mean that they cannot be re-infected.
Social distancing and hand washing and other control measures therefore remain essential for us all.
The Government has asked us to prioritise antibody testing for an initial sample of up to 200 teachers and other school staff who have supported vulnerable children and children of key workers since March of this year. This will begin from next week. This sample of teachers and other school staff from operating school hubs will therefore be the first group of key workers we will be offering the antibody test to.
Powys County Council and Powys Teaching Health Board will be working together with schools to deliver this programme, and we will be contacting those teachers and other school staff who are included in this initial sample by telephone next week to offer them an appointment.
The Welsh Government has also confirmed that some healthcare workers and patients will be given priority for antibody testing. We expect more details soon to confirm the priority groups.
We are working at pace to put put antibody testing into operation in Powys and we will make further announcements as details are confirmed.
More background information on antibody tests can be found on the UK Government link below, but please note the roll out is different in England and Wales and further information from the Welsh Government will follow.
Impact of Coronavirus in Powys
Each week the Office for National Statistics publishes information about the number of people who have died with confirmed or suspected Coronavirus (based on death registrations).
Their latest report published on 9 June 2020 confirms that sadly 86 people from Powys have died with coronavirus. This includes 45 people who have died in care homes, 35 people in hospital, and 6 people in private homes. It is clear that coronavirus has had a very real and tragic impact here in the county, and our thoughts are with everyone affected.
Thank you for your continued co-operation during these extraordinary times. We can only find a way to re-build our working and home lives if we work together to test, trace and protect ourselves, our families, our communities.
Thank you for the part you play in Keeping Powys Safe.