Tourism poses challenge to controlling coronavirus spread, top medic warns

The influx of tourists to North Wales could pose significant challenges to the tracking and tracing of coronavirus cases, one of the region’s top health experts has warned.

Teresa Owen, the executive director for public health, said the programme is aimed at making sure people can return as much as possible to their normal lives.

But the fact that large numbers of tourists regularly visit North Wales adds an extra dimension to the programme.

Mrs Owen said: “I expect we have a challenge over the coming months with the number of tourists coming to North Wales.

“Some people are considering breaks and there are more cars on the road than ever – the A55 certainly.

“The TTP programme is about us living as normal a life as possible – particularly as we await a vaccine.

“Work is underway on the planning for a vaccine. I believe it will come in small amounts, so until then we really need must have a good TTP programme.

“Even when we start vaccinating we will still need TTP to support us.”

The TTP programme will use a team of contact tracers to get in touch with those who have been close to people who test positive for Covid-19.

It will be their job to get those people to self-isolate if appropriate.

The TTP scheme is being run at a local level by Flintshire county council on behalf of the six North Wales authorities.

More semi-permanent staff are being recruited with the help of £11.2m of Welsh Government cash pledged to the region.

More complex regional outbreaks of the Covid-19 will be coordinated by Betsi Cadwaladr – and the partners are in discussions as to who gets what proportion of the cash.

Ms Owen revealed there had been challenges developing an IT system to coordinate the national effort but those problems had now been overcome.

She said a new chief operating officer for the national TTP programme, Jeremy Griffiths, had helped.

She said protecting the vulnerable and most at risk was also part of the strategy, saying we need to make sure we are “looking after each other”.

On testing Ms Owen said “probably 50% of tests” were going to Manchester laboratories to be assessed – which represented home testing kits and those tests conducted at Llandudno and Deeside testing stations.

This, she said, meant more urgent tests could be assessed labs in North Wales.

Testing capacity had now reached around 1,400 per day.

On turnaround times for getting test results she said the picture was “variable but there’s improvement”.

She added: “I think we will be asked to work to a 24-hour turnaround and I think that will challenge us.”

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