Businesses in England are set to be offered workplace testing to provide safer workplaces for staff that are unable to work from home.
Organisations that employ over 50 people will have access to rapid lateral flow testing under new guidelines, which aim to reduce the risk of outbreaks. Previously, this form of testing, which produces results in 30 minutes, was only available for businesses with a workforce of over 250 employees.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, encouraged businesses that have workforces currently working in offices, call centres and other settings to take up the offer of rapid testing. Studies suggest that around a third of people who have the virus do not have symptoms, so testing has become increasingly important, particularly in environments where the infection could spread quickly.
Asymptomatic office workers, for example, could spread the virus to many others without realising. During an average day, they could commute via public transport, engage in meetings with colleagues or customers and travel home, all the while being unaware that they are at risk of spreading the virus. Frequent testing would enable employers to detect cases and ensure that affected staff members isolate according to the public health guidelines.
The government is hoping that introducing additional testing and increasing vaccination numbers will help to facilitate easing of measures once case numbers start to fall dramatically and it is safe to start reopening more workplaces, schools and public facilities.
Offering lateral flow testing to businesses and organisations with 50 employees or more will increase the number of firms eligible to take advantage of workplace testing drastically, with small and medium sized companies able to offer tests for those who cannot work remotely. The British Chambers of Commerce issued a statement confirming that representatives would be doing their utmost to encourage eligible businesses to take up the offer of mass testing.