Workplace Covid testing expanded

February 12, 2021

(England)

Cabinet ministers have been tasked to encourage their sectors to take up the offer of rapid workplace testing, marking efforts to normalise testing in the workplace across both public and private sectors.

The government says it is working closely with organisations across different sectors where employees cannot work from home during lockdown, from transport networks to food manufacturers, to sign up to rapid testing programmes that identify cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in employees who are not showing symptoms. This will help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and ensure vital public and economic services can continue, says the government.

Many employers have already taken up the offer of rapid, regular workforce testing, with 112 UK organisations across almost 500 sites joining government backed rapid testing. The government has confirmed that it has widened the criteria for joining the workplace rapid testing programme from businesses with more than 250 employees, to businesses with more than 50 employees.

This increases the number of different businesses that are able to sign up, so that small and medium size companies can benefit from rapid testing, which is key to breaking chains of transmission.

 

Website launched

More than 2.5 million tests have been distributed across the public and private sectors so far, and an online portal has been launched to make it easier for businesses in the private sector to get involved and find out more about offering rapid testing in the workplace. All those who can work from home should continue to do so.

Around one in three people who have coronavirus (COVID-19) have no symptoms and may be unknowingly spreading the virus. This expansion of testing will find more positive cases, keeping workers who cannot work from home unknowingly passing on the virus and protecting vital public services.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “To save lives and protect the NHS, we have again asked for everyone to work from home. But we know that for some this is not possible, which is why the workplace rapid testing programme is so important.

“Employers should regularly test their staff, and this drive across government to raise awareness and encourage more businesses to introduce rapid testing for employees is incredibly important. When you consider that around one in three people have the virus without symptoms and could potentially infect people without even knowing it, it becomes clear why focusing testing on those without symptoms is so essential.

“We are already working with many employers to scale up workforce testing, spanning the food industry, retail sector, transport network, and across the public sector too. I strongly urge businesses and employees across the country to take up this offer of rapid testing to help stop this virus spreading further.”

 

Transport sector

The Department for Transport is working with organisations including Transport for London (TfL), the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Network Rail on rapid testing to help keep the transport network safer. TfL opened four asymptomatic test sites across London, and have been offering testing to frontline operational employees in London Underground and surface transport, including station staff, train operators and revenue inspectors. The rapid testing programme has been protecting teams working on the frontline, operating the railway so that key workers can continue to travel to work. As of 29 January, NHS Test and Trace had provided TfL staff with 2,173 tests, identifying 28 positive cases that would have otherwise continued working alongside colleagues.

 

Courts

The Ministry of Justice is rolling out rapid workforce testing for prisons staff, as well as assessing how it could work in courts, to help ensure that the vital work of the justice system can continue.

Tests are currently being provided free to both public and private sector employers until at least 31 March.

 

This is valid as of 12th February 2021.

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