It’s official. From 19 July, the UK reopens. Just in time for summer, we have the green light to ditch our masks and coexist with COVID. No social distancing, no rule of six, no post-holiday quarantine hassles (provided you’re double-jabbed).
It’s the normality we’ve all been waiting for – except it really isn’t. Once the final set of rules is removed, cases of the Delta variant are predicted to peak at 2 million in the coming months. The Lambda strain has also landed, presenting a potentially more transmissible, vaccine-resistant challenge. Current modelling shows daily infections running at 29,000 across the UK, with numbers expected to reach 100,000 per day by summer’s end – the highest levels of the entire pandemic.
The statistics are scary, but government believes they’re sustainable, thanks to the vaccination programme’s protective ‘wall of defence’. It’s hoped that the vaccine’s reduction of COVID’s lethality will spare our healthcare system the untenable pressures of last year. But even health secretary Sajid Javid admits that no one knows for sure.
When government does away with free workplace testing on 19 July, we’ll know even less.
In his House of Commons address outlining the wholesale lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, the health secretary warned that we’re heading into “uncharted territory”. Without a reliable testing programme to accurately monitor cases, that new terrain becomes significantly harder to navigate.
From ‘Freedom Day’, only pre-registered employers will receive free workplace lateral flow tests, leaving companies who missed the sign-up deadline to implement their own screening methods. Considering the impact on staff attendance and output that a summer surge will spark, it’s an investment worth making – for many reasons.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, routine lateral flow screening in our schools, workplaces and communities has tracked the virus’s shifts and spikes. It’s provided clarity around case numbers and reduced transmission risks by singling out asymptomatic carriers.
Take away testing, however, and you take away the trigger to act responsibly – to confirm infection, isolate and halt the spread. With millions of cases on the horizon, this isn’t the time to let the virus progress unwatched.
As the virus accelerates exponentially through the upcoming wave, it’s inevitable that even your partially or fully vaccinated workers will be affected – whether through short-notice isolation or illness. By removing testing support, government has forced companies to pick a lane: either live with the risks to people and profits, or safeguard staff with your own screening programme.
So far, testing has provided a vital early warning system that stops single cases from spiralling into company-wide outbreaks and closures. Removing it denies employers of a critical head start on containing risk.
The vaccine is pivotal to the government’s ‘no-limits’ plan – but at what point will your entire team be vaccinated? Millions are currently waiting for their second dose (with only around 30% resistance to the Delta strain), while others may choose not to have the jabs at all.
Whatever your level of workforce immunity, the vaccine cuts employees’ risk of hospitalisation and death; it doesn’t stop staff from developing symptoms, taking sick days or being pinged by test and trace apps. It doesn’t prevent drops in productivity, the drain of a continually depleted workforce or the cost of repeated isolation periods.
Twice-weekly testing pinpoints positive cases before they enter your workplace, helping you maintain a safe environment and build an effective buffer between your company and external COVID threats – at a time when no business can afford to be left behind.
Learn more about simple, cost-effective workforce testing
KnowNow is a saliva-only lateral flow test that detects positive cases up to two days earlier than other rapid antigen screening methods. Results are available in 15 minutes and link to a unique QR code for every employee, so you can be sure only non-infectious staff are heading on site.
Learn more at knownow.com.