A leading British healthcare and testing company is urging business leaders and SME owners across the UK to work together to adopt a public and economic health protection plan to avoid the UK being plunged into a third lockdown.
Salutaris People, which is on the UK Government’s approved list of COVID-19 test providers, provides testing solutions for a wide range of businesses and corporate organisations. It also operates the rapid PCR testing laboratory for airline passengers at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, in partnership with Test Assurance Group (TAG) and Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
Healthcare bosses have warned that if businesses and the public do not proactively work together in partnership over the coming weeks and months, the UK may have no choice but to be forced into another rapid shutdown, with businesses forced to close and personal freedoms curtailed once again.
It comes at a time when almost all Covid restrictions have been lifted and the Government is expected to withdraw its lateral flow mass testing facilities to businesses across the UK. Supplies of lateral flow tests in the UK also ran out on Monday of this week (19th July) as the public flooded the Government’s website with requests for tests. This is set against a perfect storm of rapidly increasing Covid infections and more worryingly perhaps, increasing hospital admissions. Several weeks ago, Salutaris People also warned the airline industry that a ‘no mask’ policy for air travel could ignite a setback for the airline and travel industry to the start of the pandemic.
Despite the widespread success of the vaccination programme, even people who have received both doses of the vaccination can still catch Covid and also pass on the infection to others with whom they come into contact. No vaccine is ever 100% effective. It is, therefore, critical that we take other precautions to build protection. Through effective, targeted testing for COVID-19, we need to identify cases as soon as we can, and then prevent onward transmission risk through good hand sanitisation and continuing to wear face masks in crowded or poorly ventilated places. These continued precautionary measures – under a public and economic health protection plan as advocated by Salutaris People – would reduce the risk of a third lockdown until all of the UK’s population is fully vaccinated.
Darren Williams was previously responsible for running some of the pilot mass Covid testing sites in Liverpool during the height of the pandemic last year and has also worked on a number of major testing projects for HM Prison Service, DHSC, and Public Health England in the north-west. As the newly appointed MD of Salutaris People, Darren Williams has been at the front and centre of mass testing programmes. ‘Businesses are only just getting back on their feet and the economy is starting to return to some degree of normality, if there is such a thing. But we face a clear and present danger if the infection rate of the virus continues to surge forward faster and the NHS becomes overwhelmed again. The early-stage indications in the infection and hospitalisation rates are a worrying trajectory.
‘It is anticipated that the Government will also be withdrawing its free Covid testing programme and businesses will be expected to make their own arrangements for Covid testing of employees and staff. If those companies do not have the appropriate testing facilities in place, they are leaving both their employees and the business vulnerable and open to the virus infection rate increasing. This will ultimately lead to more infections, staff having to self-isolate, and a major impact on the operational effectiveness of the business.
‘We are urging all businesses to continue maintaining robust health and safety protocols. That means maintaining mask-wearing and hand sanitisation, but most importantly, rigorous rapid testing of their staff combined with track and trace. Businesses working together with the public and their staff need to continue communicating the importance of this ongoing vigilance. Whilst the Prime Minister has publicly stated he will not put the country back into lockdown, he may well have no choice if the infection rate spirals out of control. A third lockdown would then be inevitable and could devastate the economy, decimating businesses, and people’s livelihoods.’
Salutaris People has been at the forefront of mass corporate testing programmes across the UK, anticipating and predicting trends in the Covid testing space. Its mass testing programmes – across the construction, engineering, and facilities management sectors – have been at the forefront of eradicating the spread of Covid in the workplace through rapid testing.
Terry Whalley, who is currently strategic lead for Cheshire and Merseyside COVID-19 Test & Trace, was previously director of COVID-19 testing for Cheshire and Merseyside and was responsible right from the start of the pandemic for establishing access to all forms of COVID-19 testing across Merseyside and Cheshire. As a highly respected and eminent consultant, Terry advises both private and public sector organisations on COVID-19 testing and vaccine programmes. ‘Having spent the last 18 months, since the beginning of the pandemic, building testing and vaccine services at pace and scale, I’m hugely relieved to see the data seemingly showing that the vaccine deployment is having such a positive impact on illness and mortality. But it has not stopped it.
‘I understand why, after 18 months of various forms of lockdown, the Government and many people across the country are keen to see things return to normal. As of this week, things will indeed take a big further step towards normality. However, my fear is that there is no going back to the pre-pandemic way of life we all know. We need to recognise that we have to define our new “normal” and take steps to ensure we can protect lives and livelihoods as we learn to live with Covid. This means for me that we must not put all our eggs in one basket, but must establish a range of interventions that can be called upon as and when needed to add layers of protection to prevent avoidable impacts on lives and livelihoods.
‘While we may not be able, or indeed wish, to sustain blanket restrictions or mandated mass testing and tracing, we should establish, in my view, the capability to deal with outbreaks and incidents with a rapid response that sees reliable testing made available where it’s needed, when it’s needed and for those who need it or are concerned they may need it. Off the back of that, we must develop an effective way to use positive test results to support and enable people to protect the lives and livelihoods of those they know and love by taking steps to avoid onwardly transmitting the disease.
‘Rapid detection, effective isolation, and doing the basics brilliantly (hands, face, space) are all layers of protection that, combined with high vaccine uptake, can help reduce the risk that Covid continues to pose. COVID-19 is not going away, and the signs are it will continue to evolve with further variants. We must design, using effective partnerships between public and private sector, solutions that give us the ability to respond to “variants of concern,” to outbreaks that threaten places of work, places of education, the vulnerable among us, and ensure we protect lives and livelihoods as we learn to live in a “new normal” world.’
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