FMQs: Public confidence “takes a hit” following data breach; 3 Covid testing labs set for 24-hour running

Public confidence in NHS data management needs to be restored

With news of a major data breach at Public Health Wales involving 18,000 positive Covid-19 tests ( there’ve been a total of ~20,000 positive tests in Wales since the pandemic began), Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies MS (Con, Preseli Pembs.), suggested the Welsh Government has known about this for weeks.

It also isn’t the first emergence of issues around personal data or misapplication of data.

“I hope you’ll now….apologise to the people affected by this latest data breach. Will you also take the opportunity to tell us how long the Welsh Government has known about this breach and what you’re doing to restore public confidence in its data management?”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies MS

There was no apology from the First Minister himself, who said it was right for Public Health Wales to apologise. The Information Commissioner has been informed and an inquiry has been launched into how this happened.

That said, the First Minister didn’t think it was right for Paul Davies to connect different incidents in the way that he did.

Facing more criticism from Paul Davies about a reduction in care home testing from weekly to fortnightly, the First Minister blamed the UK’s Lighthouse labs (which provide care home testing) and would look to see whether testing capacity should be brought back to, and increased in, Wales.

Mark Drakeford also confirmed discussions are ongoing with authorities over the practicalities of introducing routine Covid-19 testing at Cardiff Airport.

“Smart lockdowns” an option for a second Covid-19 wave

Having recently published a 10-point plan to deal with a second pandemic wave, Adam Price MS (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) asked what measures the Welsh Government would be willing to take on board?

“….could I ask that the First Minister examines the case for introducing, whenever possible, the targeted approach adopted by some countries based around smart lockdowns focused on high infection spikes at a community or neighbourhood level, rather than lockdowns across a whole local authority area?”
– Adam Price MS

The First Minister welcomed constructive contributions from the opposition, adding that the local lockdowns and targeted interventions – such as those based around meat processing plans in the summer – are examples of a smart lockdown.

There was disagreement over what the transmission rate (R-number) actually is in Wales, but in terms of testing capacity, three testing centres in Cardiff, Swansea and Rhyl are set to run at 24-hour capacity following a £32million investment from the Welsh Government in August.

“We had 3,000 applications for the 160 jobs that will be recruited, and interviews for those posts began yesterday. So the sooner we are able to get those people in post, the sooner we will be able to get that lab capacity….And when we have more capacity in that way, we will be able to think again about who we test, when we test them, including….(allowing) us to consider the issue of asymptomatic testing in a different way.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

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