HEALTH Minister Vaughan Gething has announced an extra £15.7m to nearly double the contact tracing workforce in Wales for the winter.

The funding will increase the number of contact tracing staff in Wales from 1,800 to 3,100 in time for an expected rise in demand in December and through to the end of March.

A new all-Wales team is also being set-up to support local teams when they have a surge in cases.

“Contact tracing is a vital element of our Test, Trace, Protect strategy to stop the spread of the virus,” Mr Gething said.

“The contact tracing system in Wales has performed well so far, with over 90% of contacts being traced successfully since it started.

We have used the firebreak period to review Test, Trace, Protect to enable us to maintain and improve performance as we head into what we expect will be a difficult winter, with the possibility that cases will increase.

“This extra funding will allow local contact tracing teams to increase the number of contact tracers and advisers for the busy winter period. We are also creating a new all-Wales tracing team to help our local teams manage surges on days when there are particularly high numbers of new positive cases.

He added: “Together with our investment in testing laboratories in Wales this will ensure or Test, Trace, Protect strategy can help protect us by quickly identifying people with coronavirus symptoms; identifying new hotspots and isolating as many contacts as possible.”

Meanwhile, Mr Gething said the £500 payments to help people on low incomes to self isolate for 14 days, will start next Monday, November 16.

Of the Self Isolation Payment Scheme, he said: "If we are going to break the cycle of infection, it is really important that everyone (who is required to do so) stays at home and self isolates, if they have symptoms of coronavirus.

"Most people are infectious for a couple of days before symptoms appear.

"I want to thank everyone for their hard work during the fire-break.

"There are positive early signs that rates are beginning to fall."