Paul Hillman, Director, MEDsan UK, considers whether frequent testing could get the UK’s furloughed employees back to wokrplaces
It has been suggested that the lack of testing to date in the UK has proved costly. For example, had more tests been available for care home staff and residents, many lives could have been saved. The World Health Organisation’s mantra has been “test, test, test” throughout this crisis. South Korea has managed to contain the virus to such an extent that on 30th April it reported it had seen no new domestic infections, but it had more than 200 labs carrying out tests from the start. Germany also has an in-built advantage in that it has a well-established biomedical engineering industry as well as a decentralised testing model which allowed for a much greater number of tests. In comparison, the UK has demonstrated a lack of a coherent, overarching strategy with regards to testing.
The biggest test for testing is yet to come. If easing of lockdown is to succeed, an effective testing and tracing regime with rapidly generated results is urgently required.
This is where rapid antibody testing comes in. Rapid antibody tests are an ideal workplace screening tool for businesses and organisations. These tests are very reliable, with many claiming sensitivity and specificity of over 95%. Germany, with its well-established expertise in diagnostics and bio medics, is leading the way in the quality of these tests.
As workplaces look to get back up and running as easing of lockdown approaches, a cohesive testing strategy can enable businesses to get their workforces back to work safely. MEDsan UK has prepared a proposed early testing strategy for businesses wanting to get employees back to work.
Four days before being due back to work, the employee takes a rapid antibody test, with a finger prick of blood. The results are given within 10 to 15 minutes. If negative, the employee tests again the morning they are due back to work. If the test is still negative, they can proceed to go to work, observing the Government’s social distancing strategy wherever possible, and test every week continually.
If the employee tests positive, they must immediately self-isolate to prevent spreading the virus to others. They should then contact the NHS on 111 for advice on the next steps to take.
Critical industries such as the care sector, construction, transport and logistics can look to employ this strategy to be able to run their business whilst keeping track of employee exposure to the virus and keeping their workforce safe. MEDsan UK’s rapid antibody test costs £30 per test. This means a business would incur a £30 cost per head, per week to employ this proposed testing strategy.
This is an early strategy and may change as new data on testing strategies and limitations of kit assays in population studies becomes available.
MEDsan UK’s rapid antibody test is manufactured in Germany by SanPharma – a well-respected business producing diagnostics and medical devices for over 40 years. Initial laboratory test results demonstrated a clinical sensitivity of more than 96%, a specificity of 100% and an overall accuracy of 99%.
MEDsan have received over 30 million orders from over 20 countries globally for the COVID-19 rapid tests including the USA, Germany, Spain and Italy. A responsible and realistic testing strategy such as the above can enable the UK to ease out of lockdown, restart critical industries, release employees out of furlough, reemploy those made redundant during the crisis and restart the economy, all whilst keeping employees safe.
Businesses throughout the UK need to review how their workforce can safely ease out of lockdown, and rapid antibody testing is the ideal, and most easily manageable, tool in which to do this.