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Extension of antigen testing to all key workers in England - including in the transport sector

Yesterday the Government announced that testing for the presence of Covid-19 antigens is being made available to essential workers who are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 – a high temperature or new continuous cough - as well as people who live with essential workers and are themselves displaying symptoms.

 This means essential workers can find out whether they have the virus, and we can help them return to work if they test negative. Testing is most effective within 3 days of symptoms developing.

 Who can be tested?

 The list of essential workers and those prioritised for testing (England only) includes:

Transport workers, including:

  • those who keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the coronavirus response
  • those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass
Critical personnel in the production and distribution of food, drink and essential goods, including:
  • those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery
  • those critical to the provision of other essential goods, such as medical supply chain and distribution workers, including veterinary medicine
  • workers critical to the continuity of essential movement of goods
utilities, communication and financial services staff, including the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors

 Hence seafarers and many other persons whose jobs are concerned with the functioning of supply lines for food, fuel and other essential goods are considered to be essential workers and hence covered by the Government’s announcement.

 How to arrange a test

 Essential workers who are self-isolating will be able to book a test directly as from Saturday 25 April using a Government portal.  Tests will be available at regional drive-through test sites.  Alternatively they may order a home test kit.  A delivery service for home testing kits has been designed with key industry partners, including Royal Mail and Amazon. The availability of home test kits will initially be limited but will increase over time.

 Essential workers using the new portal can enter their details and will then receive a text or email the same day inviting them to either book an appointment at one of more than 30 drive-through testing sites across the country or receive a home testing kit.  Test results from the drive-through sites will be sent out by text within 48 hours, and within 72 hours of collection of the home delivery tests.

 Employers of essential workers may, with immediate effect, use the new employer referral portal to refer essential workers who are self-isolating either because they or member(s) of their household have coronavirus symptoms, for testing.  It is a secure portal for employers to use to upload the full list of names and contact details of self-isolating essential workers.

 If referred through this portal, essential workers will receive a text message with a unique invitation code to book a test for themselves (if symptomatic) or their symptomatic household member(s) at a regional testing site.

 In order to obtain a login, employers of essential workers should email with 2 email addresses that will primarily be used to load essential worker contact details.

 Once employer details have been verified, 2 login credentials will be issued for the employer referral portal.

 Full information on the testing process can be found on the Government’s Coronavirus website.

 What type of test is being offered?

 The test is a Polymerised Chain Reaction (PCR) test whose purpose is to detect Covid-19 antigens.  This will indicate whether a person is infected with Covid-19.  The test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, which can be done by the person themselves (self-administered) or by someone else (assisted).

 Chamber action

 It will be noted that only persons who display symptoms associated with Covid-19 will be eligible for a test under the Government’s scheme.  The Chamber is exploring avenues for wider availability of testing for seafarers as a matter of urgency, mindful of reports that as many as 50% of persons who carry the virus are asymptomatic.  The Chamber will publish further information on this as it becomes available.