- The Covid-19 Volunteer Testing Network is scaling up towards thousands of tests per day
- 6 labs around the country are now live with 20 more in the pipeline
- Local labs can deliver a fast-turnaround for their nearby GPs and care home workers
- One lab in the network identified an outbreak in a community care provider with asymptomatic staff testing positive
- Underscores the vital importance of regular screening of healthcare workers who might otherwise unknowingly be spreading the virus
Oxford, UK, 7th May 2020 / Sciad Newswire / The Covid-19 Volunteer Testing Network has rapidly expanded testing capacity across the UK. The project, launched last month, helps small laboratories run critical antigen testing and identify Covid-19 cases among healthcare workers. The initiative complements the government’s centralised testing program with a distributed network of smaller, local labs.
Starting from a single lab running 100 tests/day for 10 GP surgeries, the network now has 6 labs live testing up to 1000 healthcare workers each day across 50 GP surgeries. Over 20 more labs are in the pipeline and expected to go live in May and June.
Network labs are testing health workers locally, so most are able to deliver same-day results. Labs deliver swab kits to GP surgeries and care homes, then pick them up when they have been completed, reducing the need to drive long distances to a testing centre.
The network is supporting regular screening of local healthcare workers with some GP practice staff being swabbed twice per week. “We believe that it is vital to test even asymptomatic frontline healthcare workers regularly” said Covid-19 Volunteer Testing Network founder Mike Fischer CBE. “Even people who do not show symptoms may be carriers of the virus, and transmit the infection to others.”
Why it is vital to test asymptomatic care workers
Davis French & Associates is a private laboratory in the network which has been screening workers in four GP surgeries, a care home, and a community care provider. They are a prime example of the importance of testing asymptomatic healthcare workers.
Davis French conducted tests on the staff of a care provider which had a number of elderly customers who had been taken critically ill and subsequently hospitalised with Covid-19. The provider was concerned that their carers had been exposed to the disease, and possibly transmitted the disease as they visited different homes to provide care.
Greg French, Managing Director of Davis French & Associates, said: “We tested 20 of their carers, finding eight positives. None of them had been showing symptoms when they were tested, but had still been at risk of shedding the virus. Our testing helped to make sure that the disease was discovered and they could isolate. This helps to keep them away from other staff and those in need of care, keeping them safe and slowing the spread of the virus.”
Healthcare workers are pressed for time and those without symptoms may not self-refer to testing centres. “We need to organise bringing tests to people rather than bringing people to the tests. It needs to be a systematic and frequent effort” said Greg French.
He continued: “The COVID-19 Volunteer Testing Network has been hugely supportive of our efforts. The funding that they have given us has been critical to us being able to keep testing. There is also great moral support. It is inspiring and reassuring to know that there are other people out there who want to do the same testing as we are doing. In the future, the network will be able to help us with resourcing, providing vital consumables like reagents. This will be very beneficial to us.”
Notes to editors
About the Covid-19 Volunteer Testing Network:
The Covid-19 Testing Network is an initiative by the Fischer Family Trust registered charity no. 1075453, set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is supporting a network of life sciences labs who already have the machinery, facilities and personnel in situ to perform Covid-19 testing for their local communities.
The project was conceived by Mike Fischer CBE, entrepreneur and philanthropist and is backed by the Fischer Family Trust. The project co-founders - entrepreneurs Caroline Plumb OBE & Tim Perkin, are co-ordinating efforts to set up and run the network.
All those involved in the network coordination are volunteers. Mike is contributing up to £1M towards the cost of consumables for labs.
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