A WAY of testing for the new variant of coronavirus has been installed at a Public Health Wales (PHW) laboratory in Cardiff to improve testing for it in South Wales.

Last week, health minister Vaughan Gething said the figures for the spread of the new variant in South Wales were "an understatement".

Mr Gething said the figures for North Wales were a more accurate representation of how prevalent the new variant was, with more samples being sent from North Wales to Lighthouse Labs facilities - which have the capability to test for the new variant.


But PHW has said improvements are being made to its facilities to improve its testing facilities in South Wales.

“Coronavirus samples are distributed to a range of laboratories which use different platforms, all of which will identify both the new variant and the original as Covid-19,” said a PHW spokeswoman.

“Some platforms will differentiate the new variant, at the moment more samples from North Wales go to these platforms, however a proportion of samples from all over Wales are sent to labs where the new variant can be detected.

“In addition, a platform to detect the new variant has been added to the PHW laboratory in Cardiff, and this is used to test samples from some settings.

“At the moment the evidence shows that the new variant is more prevalent in North Wales than south, and that coronavirus is widespread across the whole of Wales.

“While the new variant of coronavirus is more transmissible than the original virus, then current evidence shows that it does not cause more serious symptoms or illness. Therefore the public should continue to adhere to the existing regulations, avoid mixing with other households, maintain social distancing and hand hygiene, wear face coverings if appropriate and self-isolate if you have symptoms or if asked to do so.”

On Monday, Mr Gething said work was under way to ensure a more accurate picture in South Wales.

“[The data] shows lots within North Wales where we think it’s on the way to becoming the dominant strain - if not the dominant - but we're not sure that it is the dominant strain in South Wales,” he said.

“That's why PHW are working with colleagues in England get more of that represented sampling done.

“I can't give you an exact figure in South Wales but in North Wales we think it's already at or above 50 per cent of the new positive tests that are coming back, so I’m afraid it doesn't appear that it's already the dominant strain within the north of our country. that reiterates the reasons why we all need to do the right thing.”

PHW added that the data in Wales shows the new variant is “no more common in children than in adults.”