THE potential closure of Newport's coronavirus lighthouse laboratory has been branded "short-sighted" by first minister Mark Drakeford.

The facility at Imperial Park in the west of the city - one of a series throughout the UK set up during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic dedicated to driving the NHS Test and Trace programme - has played a major part in the fight against coronavirus.

However, after all coronavirus regulations were scapped in England recently, concerns have been raised that the so-called lighthouse labs - including the one in Newport - will be closed down.

Although health is devolved in Wales, the lighthouse labs are operated by the UK Government.

Mark Drakeford said that such a closure would leave Wales as "the only part of Great Britain without a testing laboratory of that sort available to us".

"I ask UK ministers repeatedly what would happen in the autumn if we were to see a different variant emerge and a need for a new, stepped-up level of testing to be available to deal with it and, so far, there is no answer to that at all," he said.

"Once you have dismantled a sophisticated laboratory of the sort we've had in Newport, do we really expect that they will simply re-emerge when we need them again in an emergency?

"These are short-sighted actions and I hope that we will not all have to live to regret them."

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Newport West MS Jayne Bryant, in whose constituency the lighthouse lab falls, echoed the first minister's concern.

"It is my sincere hope that the need for Covid-19 testing will continue to decline in the coming months, as we begin to live with coronavirus," she said.

"But, the fact remains that this pandemic is not over, and testing will continue to play an important role as we move forwards.

"This is a complex site with a highly skilled and valued workforce.

"Their loss is a blow to Newport."

A UK Health Security Agency spokesman said: "Further decisions about the future of the laboratory network will be announced in due course."

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