More employers sign up to rapid testing to protect workforce

Businesses and public sector organisations are joining a government scheme to test workers without symptoms who cannot work from home.

Around 1 in 3 people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and may be unknowingly spreading the virus.

To help stop the virus spreading, the government is making millions of rapid test kits available to NHS and care home staff, primary care workers, schools, colleges and universities, as well as to all 314 local authorities in England via the community testing offer.

To support this national effort, government departments are working in partnership with NHS Test and Trace to support businesses and public sector bodies to implement rapid testing, including organisations operating in the food, manufacturing, energy and retail sectors, and within the public sector including job centres, transport networks, and the military.

An estimated 734,600 lateral flow tests have been distributed across the public and private sector so far, helping workers who need to leave home for work during lockdown to continue to do so, while quickly identifying those who may be carrying the virus.

Rapid testing in the workplace, using lateral flow tests, aims to help protect those at highest risk and provide vital information to help inform further rollout of the rapid testing technology in future.

Organisations signed up to workplace testing already include: Royal Mail, Tate & Lyle Sugars, Primula, Moy Park, Octopus Energy, Apetito, and DVLA.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Keeping workers safe is absolutely crucial and businesses have been working incredibly hard to prioritise the health of their staff and customers during this difficult time. I am pleased so many businesses have taken up the opportunity of rapid workplace testing. I would encourage even more to do so and to continue to follow our COVID-secure guidance as we pull together to protect our NHS and save lives.”

Industry reaction

Dr Shaun Davis, Global Director Compliance and Sustainability at Royal Mail, said: “Throughout the pandemic, the health and safety of our customers and our people has been our number one priority. We were pleased to take part in the government’s pilot of rapid COVID-19 testing for workforces. Lateral flow device testing is poised to add another important tool in our drive to keep our people safe, as well as inform a mass testing strategy for the UK. Our employees and union in Sheffield have been incredibly supportive of the pilot. We could not be prouder to play our part in the government’s fight against COVID-19.”

Julie Lennard, DVLA Chief Executive, said: “We are very pleased to be part of this important programme to help the fight back against the virus. Staff safety is our priority at DVLA so taking part in this scheme is a valuable addition to the changes we have already put in place to help keep our site COVID-19 secure and to reduce the risk of transmission. These include zone working, additional cleaning, one way systems, Perspex screens and the addition of a new building to give operational staff on site more space.”

Gerald Mason, Senior Vice President of Tate & Lyle Sugars, said: “Mass testing has really helped us get one step ahead of the virus by identifying colleagues who were infectious but showed no symptoms. This has been especially welcome over the last few weeks at our East London factories as the levels of virus in the local area have been extremely high. Our colleagues have welcomed it as it means they are much safer in our workplace, and our factories are better placed to continue to feed the nation.”

Primula Managing Director, Paul Lewney, said: “I am delighted that Primula has been chosen as a pilot site for lateral flow testing. Our colleagues have worked tirelessly and we really appreciate their commitment throughout the pandemic to ensure we can continue to play our part in helping to feed the nation. By implementing this mass testing programme, they are able to continue their work in the knowledge that they are keeping both themselves and their families safe. It is vital that we do everything we can to understand more about the virus and help control the spread of COVID-19 and it is an honour that Primula can play a role in that.”

Kirsty Wilkins, HR and Performance Director at Moy Park, said: “We are proud to be playing our part to help tackle the spread of coronavirus by participating in the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) rapid testing programme. Safety is a condition at Moy Park and we continue to maintain the highest level of vigilance to stop the virus coming into our facilities and help prevent its transmission. Participation in the scheme runs in tandem with the rigorous safety protocols we have in place such as thermal temperature scanning, enhanced cleaning and hygiene regimes, Perspex screens, additional PPE and social distancing measures.”