As lockdown slowly begins to ease across England, thoughts move to how we can all stay safe. And particularly how businesses can create safe working environments to help keep employees safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As well as complying with COVID secure guidelines when reopening, workplace testing for employees will also be a big component of this for businesses.
What are rapid COVID tests?
Also referred to as lateral flow tests (LFD) rapid COVID tests have been hitting the news in recent weeks as the government widen out the availability and eligibility to access this type of testing.
1 in 3 people with COVID-19 do not display any symptoms. Rapid testing is seen as a vital way to break the chain of transmission of the virus by identifying positive cases at an earlier stage by opening up testing to those who do not show symptoms.
How do rapid COVID tests work?
Rapid COVID tests are designed to be used by those who DO NOT show symptoms of COVID-19.
Lateral flow tests are an established technology which are now being used to help identify positive COVID-19 cases.
In the case of COVID-19 rapid flow tests, the test consists of a handheld device with an absorbent pad at one end and a test window at another.
When taking the test, you must take a sample, typically from the back of the nose and throat, using a swab. The swab is then dipped into an extraction solution. This solution is dripped on to the absorbent pad included in the testing device. This creates a reaction which produces a result in the test window – positive, negative or void.
Those who display symptoms of COVID-19 must still access a PCR test NOT a rapid test. PCR tests can be completed using either a home testing kit which is then sent off to a lab or visiting a symptomatic testing site to access testing but find full information about booking a PCR test on the gov.uk website.
How long do rapid COVID tests take to give results?
The results from a rapid COVID tests come back in around 30 minutes. The results appear within the test window so you can read the test results yourself.
- If you receive a positive test result you must self-isolate immediately.
- If you receive a void test result you must take the test again
- If you receive a negative test result you must continue to follow the basic guidelines – hand washing, social distancing and wearing a mask where required
The results of a rapid COVID test should be reported to the NHS.
How can employers’ access rapid COVID testing for employees?
All businesses in England that expect to open before the end of June 2021 are being encouraged to sign up for regular rapid workplace testing by the government.
There are a number of ways that employers can provide rapid COVID testing for employees
On site workplace testing
On the 6th March it was announced that on site workplace testing would be available to all businesses, including those with fewer than 50 employees. Registering for this scheme is possible until the 12th April to obtain access to free testing until the end of June.
As part of the workplace testing scheme, rapid COVID tests will be sent to businesses at no cost. Employees can be tested at least twice a week through the scheme. Businesses just need to provide a room to do the testing, some basic equipment and staff to support.
You can register for this scheme even if your business is not open yet.
Businesses with over 10 employees who cannot offer on-site testing
From the 6th April the workplace testing programme is to be expanded further. This will see the scheme supply home test kits to companies with over 10 workers where it is not possible to set up testing on-site. This is in recognition of the fact that not all businesses have space or facilities to set up on site testing.
Businesses will be eligible to order rapid home test kits online which they can then distribute to their employees. Employees can access the test kits from their employers and complete the home test in the normal way with results reported back to the NHS.
If your business is eligible and wants to make use of this scheme you must register before 12 April in order to access free tests until the end of June. You can register even if your business is not open or are not able to start using the tests straight away.
To find out if your business is eligible for either of the workplace testing schemes, then the best place to visit is the gov.uk online hub for all the most up to date information.
If your business is an SME with up to 50 employees but is not registered with one of the above schemes, you may be able to direct your employees to community testing schemes. Some local councils are offering rapid lateral flow tests to those without Coronavirus symptoms. Find out if your local area is providing this service and whether you can get a test.
We appreciate that this continues to be a difficult time for all businesses, whether you’ve been able to operate during the pandemic or have had to shut your doors during lockdown. If you have any questions about an existing business insurance policy or are reviewing your business insurance needs at this time do not hesitate to get in touch with our team of friendly experts who will be more than happy to help. Contact us on 020 8290 9080 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org