Business leaders in the UK have welcomed the news that all companies are to be given access to free COVID tests as the country looks to navigate its way out of lockdown restrictions.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced businesses of all sizes, including those with fewer than 50 employees, can register to order free lateral flow tests for their employees.
“Regular testing could be the difference between a workplace being able to stay open and operational, or needing to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak,” it added. “It will form a crucial part of the government’s plan to gradually and safely ease restrictions as we get back to a more normal life.”
So far over 3,500 businesses are signed up to offer workplace testing programmes, and over 14,000 have registered their interest in offering rapid testing, with many already rolling tests out.
Dr Susan Hopkins, COVID-19 Strategic Response Director to PHE and Chief Medical Adviser to NHS Test and Trace explained: “Around one in three people who have coronavirus never show any symptoms but may still be infectious. This means they could be spreading the virus without realising it.
“Rapid testing can help detect asymptomatic cases quickly, preventing the virus from entering workplaces and stopping outbreaks before they occur. Combined with other protective measures, rapid testing is a vital tool to help us lower infection rates and ensure that they stay low. If you’re offered a test, please do take it.”
Federation of Small Business Chairman Mike Cherry welcomed the move.
“A workplace testing infrastructure that works for businesses of all sizes as well as consumers is fundamental to bringing the coronavirus under control and ensuring that this current lockdown is the last,” he added. “It’s great to see that the smallest businesses can now apply to set-up testing facilities on their premises.
“It’s vital that they are given all the support they need to do so successfully as they focus on staying afloat in extremely changing circumstances. We’d encourage all small firms that would benefit from a testing facility to apply as swiftly as they can.”
Confederation of British Industry Chief UK Policy Director Matthew Fell, said: “Enabling more companies to engage with workplace testing is good news. It will help protect workers and help stifle COVID-19 transmission. Businesses appreciate that regular mass testing can play a vital role in a safe re-opening, helping to build staff confidence and adding a layer of resilience to help firms stay open.”
Responding to news of the plan to drop restrictions Hannah Essex, Co-Executive Director of the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), said the move was overdue.
“This is really good news. We have long argued that it is critical for workplace testing to be expanded to businesses of all sizes and that this service is in place for as long as is necessary,” she explained. “For the government’s roadmap to work, an effective test, trace and isolate system must fit hand in glove with the vaccination programme. It is fundamental to getting businesses open again, and to keeping them open in the months ahead.”