How to... implement a Covid testing strategy

03 September 2020
How to... implement a Covid testing strategy

Hospitality employees mix with a huge range of people, so it's wise to give them reassurance with comprehensive testing, says Kelly Klifa.

With hospitality venues reopening up and down the country, business owners are faced with a dual challenge: how to open safely while 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 reopen your business sustainably – that is, both safely and cost effectively – is a fine balancing act.

Covid testing forms a crucial piece of the puzzle. Adding testing into your overall Covid strategy as you reopen your restaurant or hotel 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.

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.

Testing for live infections

Employers can choose between two strategies. In both, 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.

Establishing trust with employees will be key, through clear communication of testing strategies and by clearly outlining steps to be followed

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 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, it is recommended that testing be organised following your shift patterns, so as to allow for more contained contact tracing, conducted weekly. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 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. It is recommended that this testing is undertaken monthly.

A Lateral Flow antibody test can also pick up on infectious individuals by detecting IgM antibodies, which develop as early as seven days after onset of symptoms, a time at which employees are still contagious.

To keep within budget constraints, we recommend combining ad hoc testing of employees who display symptoms with a monthly survey of your workforce using antibody testing.

Kelly Klifa is the co-founder of Testing for All

Photo: Shutterstock

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