CORONAVIRUS - 14.10.2020

DIY testing programmes

Going it alone? The government has recognised that some employers are keen to introduce their own testing programmes for coronavirus to protect staff and for business continuity. This has become more prevalent given the problems experienced in accessing NHS testing services.

Guidance. To ensure that the testing programmes are as reliable as possible, and to protect personal data, the government has issued some advice (see The next step ). It covers the different types of testing, i.e. virus and antibody tests, how to set up a programme, the control of personal data and the action which should be taken in response to a positive or negative result.

Tip. For asymptomatic staff, there is no clinically defined frequency at which testing should be undertaken in order to be sure that someone does not have the virus. You can put in place a programme of testing if you wish but be wary of how the results are interpreted. For example, a negative test result only means that the individual is at low risk of having coronavirus at that moment in time. Agree your strategy with the occupational health provider, ensuring it is consistent with the guidelines.

Warning. A positive result in an antibody test means that the individual has had the virus but there is no strong evidence to suggest that those who have antibodies have developed long-lasting immunity. The value of antibody tests is therefore quite limited.

If you want to set up your own internal testing programme for coronavirus, follow the government’s guidelines to ensure that data protection and other rules are followed. Be wary of how the results are used as they can be unreliable.

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