Liverpool pilot is first ‘true chink of light’ on rapid mass testing – says Lord Karan Bilimoria

In his first keynote Annual Conference speech, CBI President Lord Karan Bilimoria will say that although there’s no denying that for many firms the second lockdown heralds a tough winter ahead, he remains firmly optimistic about the future.

To help bring the virus under control and save as many jobs as possible, Lord Bilimoria will set out three pillars which would help the country chart a course out of this crisis – rapid mass testing, further Government financial support and restoring our national sense of unity.

On rapid mass testing, Lord Bilimoria is expected to say: “The pilot in Liverpool announced today is the first true chink of light that rapid mass testing can move from warm words to action on the ground.

“The findings from the pilot should enable restrictions to be much more focused and self-isolation to be much better targeted, so that we can genuinely get on top of virus. Widespread, mass testing is a gamechanger that will mean people can move around safely and confidently.

“We need to leap-frog progress on mass testing. A proper rapid mass testing regime could transform the way we live and work within the coming months or sooner. The Government’s ‘moon-shot’ ambitions are exactly right. We need reliable, rapid, mass testing as soon as possible. And in the meantime, we must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

“We urge the Government to continue to consider a wider range of testing options to be as ambitious as possible – affordable, mass anti-gen testing.

“We need to move quickly to validate and pilot a range of tests, that will work in different situations. Tests that are accurate, easy to use and work well in practice. Even if they are marginally less accurate than the gold standard this can be mitigated by more frequent testing. It’s the key to reopening our economy safely.”

On Government financial support to date, Lord Bilimoria is expected to say:
“As the UK tries to flatten the curve of the disease, we also need to flatten the curve of looming unemployment. By maintaining business support, to keep us going until we emerge from the second lockdown and until we find a vaccine or can safely re-open for good.

“The Government has so far responded with one of the most ambitious rescue packages in the world. Reinstating furlough was a vital step. The Chancellor must now commit to keeping the Job Retention Scheme in place for at least as long as the lockdown lasts and chart a smooth path to the Job Support Scheme as the economy gradually begins to re-open again.

“Extending grant support to all closed companies through the new lockdown was another positive move. But this too must go further. More grants should be extended to help businesses in supply chains, not just those who are closed, so that the whole economy can survive and then thrive. And take action now to support the business investment that will help create jobs in the future.

“It’s now more important than ever that business and government work together. That sense of collaboration will empower businesses to do what they do best.”

On restoring our national sense of unity, Lord Bilimoria is expected to say:
“We must rediscover our nation’s sense of common purpose. Recently, public unity which defined the start of this crisis has begun to fracture. Solidarity turned to political partisanship, clarity to confusion, hope to doubt. We need to rediscover the spirit of common humanity that has brought us this far.

“It means focused efforts to explain Government policies and the health evidence behind them – with transparency about the criteria for tightening or lifting restrictions. It means collaboration between central and local government. Policymakers working with business and trade unions. And involving more people – local to the areas impacted – in the decision-making process.”