Posted: Fri 15th May 2020

“Essential” that 24 hour turnaround in test and trace system is ready before autumn flu season hits

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, May 15th, 2020

Welsh Government has published more of the scientific and technical research, and evidence they have received to form a response to the pandemic in Wales.

The latest advice document from the Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) has been published, although public now it is ten days old.

The Cell is co-chaired by Dr Orford and the nameless Deputy Director for Technology and Digital.

Despite being asked for a list of who is in the “Cell” twice, Welsh Government just say: “Membership is drawn from Welsh Government, Public Health Wales, Cardiff University and Swansea University.

A range of experts from different disciplines are included covering public health, health protection, medicine, epidemiology, modelling, technology, data science, statistics, microbiology, molecular biology, immunology, genomics, physical sciences and research.”

The TAC is a conduit and interpretation group, interpreting UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) outputs into a Welsh context, relay relevant information and questions from Welsh Government to SAGE as well as feed the information to groups such as Local Resilience Fora.

The four page document outlines a Wales-wide picture with no split between the north and south, despite it being reiterated several times recently the virus is spreading at different rates.

The TAC notes measurements from NHS Wales and data monitoring including a weekly survey of 500 individuals, “show that the infection is slowly receding in Wales and people are broadly complying with the social distancing regulations”, however the latter is the verdict before the tone change in England seen by many in Wales.

The report notes, “Estimates of adherence to current measures is estimated to be between 60% and 70%. There continues to be strong support for the measures in Wales (and in the UK), and most people in Wales continue to follow the social distancing guidelines.”

However reporting ten days ago it does note, “There are signs that the public may be getting tired of lockdown and may be starting to reduce their compliance. The most recent survey data shows continuing compliance, but with signs that is falling.”

Although the situation may have changed in the last week or two, the report states “it is too early to say if there is weakening compliance”.

There is some insight to how the ‘test and trace’ system could work, with the aim to isolate contacts of a possible positive index case as soon as possible.

At least 80% of contacts of an index case would need to be contacted for a system to be effective, along with those told to isolate actually following the rules, that is stated as ‘required’ for the system to be effective.

An ideal setup would see isolation only taking place once it is confirmed a positive index case exists, however that relies on there being a very quick turnaround on a test.

To start with the system will have suspected index cases isolating along with identified contacts, “even if the test results for the index case are not yet available. Contacts could be released from isolation if the index case tests negative.”

Currently, it appears there are no plans to test the contacts of an index case, as there is “insufficient evidence” to determine if that would significantly impact the epidemic compared with isolation alone.

A timeline, mixed with a warning, is also included “It is considered essential that the testing capability (i.e. <24hr turn-around of index case tests) is reached before the autumn/winter flu season when a large number of those reporting symptoms may not have COVID-19.

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