Some people may be asked to get a lateral flow Covid test instead of a PCR test if demand remains high in Wales

By Abbie Wightwick & Cathy Owen

Healthy people not in a vulnerable category might have to be asked to take a lateral flow test first and only a PCR test if they test positive, Wales First Minister has said.

More than 190,000 PCR tests have been carried out every week in Wales so far this September and Mark Drakeford outlined the Welsh Government's plan in case demand continued to grow.

He said that there had not yet been a day when Wales could not offer a PCR test to everyone who needed one but that a plan was being drawn up in case this happened later in the winter. In this case, he said that PCR tests would be prioritised for people in vulnerable groups and in vulnerable settings while others were offered a rapid turnaround lateral flow test first.

Read more: Wales' outlines new Covid plan to transition to managing the virus as 'business as usual'

At the Welsh Government press conference, see our full coverage here, he said: "Nobody in Wales during winter will be told they can't have a test.

"It's just that if we reach a situation where there are more people coming forward for testing than the PCR system can manage then you do it on the basis that first come first served basis but on the basis that the PCR tests are being used for the most vulnerable populations first, the most vulnerable settings, and then some people in the less vulnerable groups will be offered a lateral flow test in the first instance.

He continued: "If they are positive on a lateral flow test then they will be offered a PCR first to follow. We have never reached a day when we couldn't offer a PCR test to everyone who wanted one but we are making a plan in case in the depths of the winter when there might be a lot flu about and it is hard to distinguish the symptoms of flu and coronavirus.

" If we came to a day when we couldn't offer everybody a PCR test, we would still be offering everybody a test but some people in the lower risk categories might find themselves being offered a lateral flow test as the first line of defence and only those people who test positive going onto a PCR test."

Mr Drakeford confirmed there are no plans to charge for PCR tests in Wales. Some people have reported that it is taking up to two days for results to come back.

Read more: All the latest coronavirus news in Wales here.

Mark Drakeford told a press conference on Friday (October 8): "We have seen incredibly high numbers of people coming forward for PCR tests in Wales recently – up to 190,000 a week at the end of September.

"Our advice about testing if you have symptoms is not changing – get a PCR test is you have symptoms. If it’s positive stay at home and isolate. This is the best way to break the chain of transmission."

But he did warn: "If the level of demand grows still further, we may need to make some choices to deal with demand. We are working with the rest of the UK to put plans in place."

When asked by journalists he confirmed there were no current plans to charge for tests, but did say that if demand increased to the point where there were not enough tests the list would have to be managed.

While saying there was no plan to charge for PCR tests over the winter, he did say the hope going forward would be that mass testing would play a less important role in the way coronavirus was managed.

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