With hospitality venues re-opening up and down the country, business owners are faced with a dual challenge: how to re-open their business safely whilst also keeping costs low and maximising revenue. In many ways, the two challenges could be seen to undermine one another. Social distancing measures are a must, but they reduce customer capacity, which drives down revenue. Being able to correctly judge what measures should be taken in order to re-open your business sustainably – that is, both safely and cost effectively – is a fine balancing act.
At Testing For All, we believe that COVID testing forms a crucial piece of the puzzle, and it shouldn’t have to be out of budget. We are a non-profit organization whose main aim is to provide affordable and accessible COVID testing for UK businesses.
Adding testing into your overall Covid strategy as you reopen your restaurant or hospitality service can be simple and streamlined to suit individual needs and set up. It may appear complicated at first glance but there are some simple strategies to make the process straightforward and immediately implementational.
Why implement a testing strategy?
Implementing a testing strategy should be seen as an integral part of your risk assessment and contingency measures, allowing you to measure how effective your current covid prevention measures are. This is particularly important in the hospitality industry, as restaurants and hotels can act as clusters for transmission and are by nature hubs where individuals with different risk profiles come to interact.
What tests are available?
Testing for COVID-19 revolves around antibody and antigen testing. The former is done through capillary or blood samples and allows for the detection of COVID-19 antibodies which indicate a previous exposure to the virus. The latter is used to detect a live infection.
Overview of testing strategies
Testing for live infections: Employers can choose between two different strategies. In both scenarios, establishing trust with employees will be key, through clear communication of testing strategies and by clearly outlining steps to be followed based on various outcomes.
Testing employees with symptoms
We recommend conducting a daily symptom check for staff, allowing for the quick identification and isolation of potentially infected employees. The employee should then be provided with access to an antigen test in order to validate whether or not he/she has been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
If the employee tests positive for COVID-19, the employer should immediately report the case to PHE Test and Trace, and notify staff and customers who have been in contact with the infected employee, arranging further testing if required.
Testing employees without symptoms
Research has found that 80% of infections are mild or asymptomatic, thereby making a routine testing strategy key to catching any potential “super spreader”. In this instance, we recommend testing be organised following your shift patterns, so as to allow for more contained contact tracing, and conducted weekly. According to the CDC, frequency can be adjusted based on:
- The time period between exposure and development of a positive SARS-CoV-2 viral test
- The rate or change in rate of people getting infected in the surrounding community
- How many employees tested positive during previous rounds of testing
Testing for previous exposure
Testing for previous exposure using antibody testing allows you to survey your staff for previous infections and understand the effectiveness of your prevention measures in stopping the spread of COVID-19. We recommend this testing to be conducted monthly. At Testing For All, we offer Lateral Flow antibody tests which can also pick up on infectious individuals by also detecting IgM antibodies, which develop as early as >7 days after onset of symptoms, a time at which employees are still contagious.
In summary, and to keep within budget constraints that many in the hospitality sector are faced with, we recommend combining ad hoc testing of employees who display symptoms with a monthly survey of your workforce using antibody testing.
How much does it cost?
Testing For All offers lateral flows antibody tests for £25 to £39 per test, depending on number of employees and including nurse visit to administer the test and saliva based antigen testing for £85 per test.
We offer ad hoc purchase / testing as well as subscription services, and are able to provide you with tailor made testing strategies, informed by our medical advisors.
This article was published in The Caterer which can be read here
Written by Kelly Klifa with contributions from Dr Renee Hoenderkemp and Dr Caroline Meehan