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People living in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot can now go for a free Coronavirus test if they have a wider range of symptoms.
As well as the three classic signs: fever, a new continuous cough or a loss/change of taste and smell; people are now able to get a test if they have other symptoms too.
The change is happening to help find hidden COVID-19 cases in our communities, and drive down the numbers of onward transmissions.
Identifying infections which could otherwise go undetected is particularly important as new variants of the virus emerge and schools re-open.
The more tests are carried out, the easier it will be to spot early clusters of cases and possible virus mutations. This will help with easing restrictions in the future.
A large new regional testing centre opening in Baglan, with the capacity to carry out 2,800 tests a day, means there is now plenty of capacity to test more people in Swansea Bay than ever before.
The new centre joins the regional testing centre at the Liberty Stadium and a number of mobile testing units across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.
The smaller Margam testing unit, which was the first to open in the area 12 months ago, is changing its use to become a base for community testing staff.
The new testing regime will run for at least 28 days initially, and will then be reviewed.
Hywel Dda University Health Board will also be opening up its testing facilities this same way.
Swansea Bay UHB Director of Public Health, Dr Keith Reid, said:
“Demand for tests in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot has come down considerably since the end of 2020 so we have capacity to expand the offer of testing and help people confirm whether their illness is COVID.
“While the number of positive cases has come down, the rate has levelled off recently and is now showing signs of plateauing.
“This suggests the virus is still circulating at an unacceptably high rate in our communities, so we need to be both innovative and proactive in what we do next.
“This is especially important as schools re-open for onsite teaching.
“We are also aware of the risks posed by the COVID variants, and the need to identify them, if they are also circulating, as soon as possible.
“Our aim is to find as many COVID infections as possible so we can then help prevent the virus being passed on to others. Ultimately we want to safeguard people and help bring the pandemic to a faster close.”
The additional symptoms that now allow testing are known symptoms of COVID-19, but are not reported as often as the ‘classic three’ in adults, however they may be more common in children.
Dr Reid explained that the very low rates of flu circulating in Wales this winter made it practical to now expand testing this way, as the service would not be overwhelmed by flu cases presenting for a test.
Having flu-like symptoms, but with very low flu cases around, also meant the likelihood of it being COVID-19 was higher, he said.
People who had any of the new symptoms and wanted a test should ring 119 or book online: https://gov.wales/getting-tested-coronavirus-covid-19.
As these are national contacts, you may automatically be asked about the classic three symptoms.
However, simply choose either option: “you have been asked to take a test by your local council” or “you are part of a government pilot project” to book your test.
You can also ring our local number: 01639 862757 and speak to an operator who will book your test. (Local operators will be briefed about the new local testing regime.)