More workplace testing amid third-wave fears

BUSINESSES will be offered Covid-19 lateral-flow testing kits as early as next week amid concerns about a possible third wave of cases.

Dr Ivan Muscat. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30757113)
Dr Ivan Muscat. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30757113)

A pilot scheme will be launched on 3 May that will see 13 businesses across priority areas – including hospitality and retail – start using lateral-flow devices to test employees for Covid-19 each week.

A website and an app are due to be launched where businesses can register interest in participating and, from 17 May, test kits will be issued, along with an instructional pack on how to use the devices.

Deputy medical officer of health Dr Ivan Muscat said that testing had been ‘very limited’ at the beginning of the pandemic but that increased resources and capacity had allowed the Island to ‘come up to speed’.

‘The testing has now elaborated further. In addition to PCR testing, there are various forms of antigen testing,’ he said. ‘The availability of that antigen testing is increasing and they are allowing us to deploy these tests further afield so it’s really a continuing evolution of our resource to deal with the pandemic.’

Lateral-flow tests are self-administered and designed to provide a quick result. However, they are not deemed to be as accurate as PCR tests. Anyone who tests positive from a lateral-flow test will need to self-isolate before a member of the Covid Safety Team conducts a full PCR test.

When asked if there were any concerns about a rise in cases emanating from inbound travel, Dr Muscat said: ‘We are concerned about the possibility of a third wave occurring as a consequence of increasing reconnection both internally and externally.’

He added that the vaccination programme was progressing quickly, but that ‘we haven’t got to where we want to get to yet’.

‘The approach taken by Jersey has been a balance of all risks so we do want to progress down the reconnection road – which, for an Island, invariably requires consideration of connectivity with outside the Island,’ he said.

‘But we want to do so safely so we are trying to put in as many safeguards as possible to permit measured reconnection, not just in the Island but with other countries too.’

Businesses are being encouraged to register for the testing scheme once it goes live.

‘The more [participants] there are, the better it is, not just from a public-health point of view but also from a business point of view,’ said Dr Muscat.

Chief Minister John Le Fondré said: ‘We have made good progress with the vaccination programme but this was never designed to be a standalone measure. The presence of variants of concern and their global reach remains under close observation.’

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