Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Business groups have bolstered calls for the UK government to get a “grip” on shortages of fast-moving Covid-19 tests, warning that it is essential to keep the economy on track.

Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said the government should enable companies to allow employees to take a daily test. He added: “Clearly, there are currently problems with the provision of lateral flow tests that make it unworkable. That is why the government must urgently address the current supply shortages. ”

Matthew Fell, head of policy at the CBI, said: “It is now imperative that greater test stock challenges be addressed.”

The government has a program last April to give free tests to companies for their employees, but it was suspended only three months later. Some business groups have called for the scheme to be revived. “We want free lateral testing to be available to employers so that they have that option available if they want to introduce it themselves,” said Make UK, the manufacturers’ association.

Craig Beaumont, head of external affairs at the Federation of Small Business Enterprises, called on the government to get a “grip” on sorting out the supply of lateral flow tests. “The online LFT website has been down for over a week now, with no deadline or even a vague goal to return it,” he said. “With pharmacies drying up and the workplace testing program closed, the entire testing infrastructure is disintegrating. It needs a little grip to sort it out. “

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that about 100,000 key workers in various industries – “from food processing to transportation to Border Force” – will have to take daily Covid-19 tests, which are delivered by the government. Officials said relevant employers would be contacted in the coming days, with details of the scheme yet to be finalized.

Businesses operating in sectors such as transportation have been asked to provide relevant government departments with figures on how many staff are needed to run critical services, which will help determine the allocation of tests, according to Whitehall officials with knowledge of discussions.

Trade unions have called for greater clarity on the practical aspects of the scheme, which will come into effect next week. Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said there are well over 100,000 workers employed in the three sectors highlighted by Johnson.

“The vagueness of this announcement is staggering. “Once again, the government is guilty of issuing confusing advice that creates anxiety and distress for potentially affected workers,” she said. “It must be made very clear soon which workers will be criticized or not.”

Meanwhile, Johnson announced on Wednesday that travelers arriving in England will no longer have to do a pre-departure test from 04:00 on Friday. He added that travelers will be able to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR on the second day after their arrival, which removes the requirement to isolate themselves until they receive a negative PCR result.

Heathrow Airport welcomed the news, saying it represented a “much-needed boost for passengers”.

Coronavirus testing rules in England will also be eased next week as concerns grow about the country’s testing capability and the continuing impact of staff shortages on critical public services.

Among changes announced by the British Health Safety Agency on Wednesday, individuals who are asymptomatic but positive on a lateral flow test will be expected from January 11 to report their results and isolate themselves, but will no longer be advised to follow up. up PCR test.

A health official told the Financial Times that the move would free up “extra testing capacity” as the PCR testing system comes under pressure from rising infection rates.

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