Advice for Businesses on Coronavirus Testing
Covid testing for people without symptoms
What is the situation in Staffordshire January 2021?
The number of cases of Covid-19 is very high at the moment and the NHS is under unprecedented pressure. The country is in a third national lockdown. People must stay at home except for a small number of exceptional circumstances.
Why are we testing people without symptoms?
One in 3 people who are infected display no symptoms and are an important vector in the spread of the virus.
Whilst in lockdown some people need to leave their houses for essential shopping, to go to work because they cannot work from home, for medical appointments, or to provide essential care for family and friends. We are encouraging anyone who needs to be out to get tested regularly to make sure they are not carrying the virus.
Longer term we expect the virus to continue to circulate throughout 2021 and beyond, although hopefully the number of cases will reduce significantly as vaccination is rolled out. This means that testing and contract tracing will continue to play a role in controlling the spread of the virus.
Why are you asking businesses to take part?
We would like businesses to promote regular testing for both employees and customers.
Testing for people without symptoms is available at a number of community testing centres in Staffordshire. You can check locations and availability each week on our website https://staffordshire.zipporah.co.uk/TrackAndTrace/
What are the benefits for my business?
Regular testing of employees has a number of benefits for businesses:
1. It allows cases and their close contacts to be identified early, avoiding large outbreaks that are very disruptive to business continuity.
2. It provides employees with additional confidence that their employer is taking all possible steps to protect them from the virus.
3. It allows businesses to demonstrate to the community and their customers that they are playing their part in reducing the spread of infection.
What does the test involve?
The tests require a nose and throat swab and use lateral flow devices to give results in under an hour.
Are the tests compulsory?
No. However the more people we test the more cases we can find and isolate and reduce the spread of the virus.
What if a member of staff tests positive?
If an employee tests positive with a lateral flow device, they will be asked to isolate for 10 days. Their close contacts may also be asked to isolate for 10 days. It is less disruptive to businesses to identify and isolate a few cases and close contacts than to risk larger outbreaks when large numbers of employees would need to isolate. It may be possible to introduce daily testing of close contacts as an alternative to isolation in some circumstances on the advice of the council.
Do I need to pay employees who test positive whilst they isolate?
Employees will normally be entitled to statutory sick pay for the isolation period.
Can people use these tests if they have symptoms?
No, if someone has symptoms of Covid-19 – high temperature, persistent cough or loss of / change in taste or smell – they need to book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119 in England and Wales, or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
I employ a large number of staff. Can we carry out the testing ourselves?
Yes. For larger businesses we are offering lateral flow devices to test their employees on site. Please contact LFTEnquiries@staffordshire.gov.uk or submit an expression of interest at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/coronavirus.
I have heard that the lateral flow devices are not 100% accurate?
No testing is 100% accurate, and lateral flow testing is no different to any other test. That is why it is important that all businesses maintain Covid security: regular testing of employees is a complement and not an alternative to hygiene and social distancing.
What if an employee has previously tested positive for Covid-19 – should they be included in lateral flow testing?
There is confidence that people who have previously tested positive for Covid-19 will have immunity for at least 3 months following an infection. Therefore, people who have had a positive test should be excluded from lateral flow testing for 90 days.
Should we be testing employees that have received the vaccine?
Yes. As with any vaccine, although the Covid-19 vaccine is effective, there is a small chance some people who have it could still get the virus, albeit in a milder form. Therefore, it is still important to get tested.