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If there are no more PCR tests, how will variants of interest be monitored? How will we know if we have a new variant in our community?

There are a number of other data sources, which can tell us how the pandemic is evolving in Wales. Data from the Office for National Statistics COVID-19 infection survey is published twice a week and estimates the percentage of population in Wales that would test positive. This survey is based on a random sample of the population and isn’t affected by changes in testing so it’s very helpful to compare with the Public Health Wales data. In the past, ONS and Public Health Wales data have tended to follow similar patterns. Other indicators of more serious illness, like COVID-19 hospitalisation or mortality data, are more lagged but they also help shed light on any changes in trends. Additionally some patients coming into hospital (or staying in hospital), those eligible for antiviral treatments and health and social care staff, will still receive PCR tests which will be reported in the labs and can track variants.

There are also new innovative methods like monitoring levels of COVID-19 in wastewater, which provides us with another way of understanding changes. A summary of the latest wastewater analysis is published in the weekly COVID-19 situational report.