With the fantastic vaccine roll-out and dwindling cases, should employers still be thinking of testing employees?
The short answer is YES.
Whilst vaccination has reduced the impact of the most vulnerable on the NHS, evidence is still unclear on whether transmission is reduced. With the lifting of 'lock-down' and the return of school children and universities we will see a rise in cases due to greater social mixing. Coupled with greater freedom to travel both domestically and abroad with new variants scientists predict rising case numbers in the months to come.
These cases may not lead to as great an impact on the NHS but will still impact businesses when employees have to self-isolate. Be prepared. Minter et Al can work with you to set-up your employee testing service whilst taking advantage of the free lateral flow tests offered to employers.
Contact us about our new COVID-19 employer implementation fixed rate service.
The article below is a great summary about the rapid tests we use. They are also know as lateral flow devices or LFDs. Just copy and paste the link below into a new window-
The rapid tests (point-of-care tests) are immunoassays – as with pregnancy tests, results can be obtained in minutes. 15 minutes for the COVID tests. With all testing, ensuring accurate sampling is really important to ensure accurate results. The current tests are for medical professional use only. They require a nasopharyngeal swab (saliva tests are being developed) being taken with safe infection control measures, appropriate use of PPE and disposal of biohazard waste. It should also incorporate access to further laboratory testing as well as reporting into PHE.
The European Centre for Disease control (ECDC) identify that rapid antigen tests perform best in cases with high viral load, in pre-symptomatic and early symptomatic cases up to five days from symptom onset. Rapid antigen tests can help reduce further transmission through early detection of highly infectious cases, enabling a rapid start of contact tracing and management within a business of cases. If a positive antigen result is found an additional PCR test will be sent to the lab to ensure that it is not a false positive.
COVID-19 tests look for the presence of one of three molecules: viral genetic material (nucleic acid), viral proteins, or human proteins called antibodies. As the first two are looking for parts of the virus, they allow us to detect if an individual is currently infected. The third can tell us if someone has previously been infected – antibodies are a sign that the immune system has responded to a specific disease.
These develop after your body has dealt with the exposure/ infection. Antibody tests are taken by blood test. They do not show current infection, they show previous infection. We are still waiting on more evidence to help identify how long antibodies for COVID-19 last for. Whilst some companies offer an antibody test this will only tell you if someone has been previously infected at some point. A positive antibody test DOES NOT tell you an employee is not infectious (1).
To complicate matters because PCR tests can amplify minute viral fragments, one can have a positive PCR test many weeks after being infected. The person may not be infectious at the time despite the positive PCR test (2).
For a 'good test' taking a sample should be easy and ideally quick with a high predictive value. No test is perfect, but in response to COVID-19 we need a test that has a high probability of being right. With a test we also want few false positives (people who test positive but don’t have the virus) so isolation is not done unnecessarily Most importantly we want as few false negatives (people who test negative but actually have the virus) to avoid risking more unintended infectious exposures. In medical speak a '‘good’ test is one with high sensitivity: that is a test that returns few false negatives. As the Chief Medical Adviser to the UK government, Prof. Chris Whitty, said, ‘the one thing that is worse than no test is a bad test’.