Test & Trace – Roll-out of testing to critical workers

11th January 2021

To           Corrugated Sector

Dear Colleagues

Test & Trace – Roll-out of testing to critical workers

The Government is in the process of planning for critical workers (showing no Covid-19 symptoms) to be offered routine testing at their place of work – this announcement was made yesterday:  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/asymptomatic-testing-to-be-rolled-out-across-the-country-starting-this-week

In particular: “In addition to local authorities, NHS Test and Trace will also work closely with other government departments to scale up workforce testing. Many are already piloting regular workforce testing, with 15 large employers having taken up this offer already across 64 sites, including organisations operating in the food, manufacturing, energy and retail sectors, and within the public sector including job centres, transport networks, and the military”.

We think broadly similar to the Liverpool pilot:  https://liverpool.gov.uk/smarttesting

As part of the planning process, we’ve been asked by BEIS to provide estimates of staff numbers required on sites making critical products.   For this information request, we’ll use our existing statistical records to reply – and we’ll assume that 50% of our recorded employment numbers are required on-site and 50% are working from home.  If you’re a big employer and think the 50% estimated number is very wrong please let me know by close of play (if you’re a small employer you won’t slant the figures so don’t worry). 

Note that key workers have now been redefined as critical workers, and while there is no requirements for businesses to close (and travel to and from work is still allowed (see this guidance for confirmation: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home) they’ve highlighted information in the following link as the best definition of critical workers:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

We’ve pushed back against their seeking to sub-divide the sector in this way , but at some stage they are likely to choose which sites (or companies?) they see as critical and will be offered the option to take part in the (free of charge) testing scheme, though further roll-out is likely over time anyway).   

If you’re making packaging into the food and medical supply chain or hygiene products, then you clearly fit into the critical worker criteria. 

If you don’t easily fit into these classes, but think you fit into the critical criteria for other reasons please let me know.  It’s not especially important (for this reason) unless you’re very keen to take part in the first stage of staff testing – the intent is for full roll-out in due course.   

Usefulness of on-site testing.  There’s academic debate on the cost/useful balance of this quick-testing, reinforced by feedback from the small number of companies already using this methodology themselves.  With a reported 1 in 3 people carrying the infection with no symptoms, it’s these people being targeted – and indeed a number of positive cases have been identified by CPI Member companies.  While this type of testing seems generally successful in detecting individuals with a high viral load (and so most likely to spread the infection) it’s less successful in detecting those with a lower viral load and so can give a false sense of security.  There’s also reports of false positives - so resulting in unnecessary self-isolation pending the follow-up test by the more accurate PCR testing (involving lab testing).   

Critical worker access to child-care.  Note that the wider definition of those children allowed to still attend school has been widened (including those not able to fully benefit from remote learning) meaning that some schools are reporting pressure from numbers seeking to attend.  We’ve been reminded that children of critical workers should only attend school if alternative arrangements cannot be put in place.

Kind Regards

Andy Barnetson, Director of Packaging Affairs, CPI

EMail: Andy Barnetson