The numbers behind the Covid pandemic have been grim. In the UK alone, case numbers have totalled in millions, and a six-digit loss of life is nothing short of heart-breaking. Yet in recent weeks, a different kind of statistic has begun to dominate coverage – and this time, the rapidly-rising numbers represent good news.
Around half a million people a day – across the whole of the UK – are now being protected from infection through vaccination. That’s an astonishing achievement from a standing start and gives real hope that the worst of this pandemic is at last beginning to recede. The prospect of protection for our most vulnerable is something we can all be thankful for and the UK and Welsh governments, alongside our tireless army of vaccinators and health workers, deserve immense credit for the speed and efficiency of progress.
Yet while the vaccine rollout injects us with fresh optimism, it also can’t come quickly enough. Across Wales, many firms and jobs remain under severe pressure. Vast swathes of the economy have been laid low, with some sectors particularly hard-hit. And while the vaccine offers genuine hope, it isn’t a panacea when it comes to getting the economy firing again.
Workplace testing must also become commonplace. It will be a key part of our armoury for the economic restart.
By putting workplace testing regimes in place now, more firms can hit the ground running when it’s safe to reopen. Regular testing using rapid lateral flow devices – particularly those workplaces where staff are in closer proximity – can help protect staff, catch asymptomatic cases quicker and give consumers confidence.
We have been hampered throughout the crisis by not knowing enough about who is carrying the virus when showing no symptoms. But knowledge is power – the more we learn through greater workplace testing, the sooner normality can resume; safer returns to offices, pubs and warehouses; our city centres humming once again, attending live events and yes, even rebooting those holiday plans.
It will be a combination of effective vaccines and more testing that will lead us away from rising infections and damaging lockdowns. That’s why building an effective workplace testing infrastructure – and culture – will be critical to managing Covid-19 in the future.
There is work to do, however. Recent CBI research shows 87% of firms are not yet undertaking workplace testing. Many businesses cited a lack of expertise and unclear guidance or operational, logistical and regulatory complexity for not testing. And that’s entirely understandable – this is new to everyone.
Yet we desperately need the take-up of numbers to increase, and those barriers to be overcome, to get the best possible start on economic recovery. For Welsh firms seeking solutions to enable business to resume, it’s a pathway well worth exploring.
Increasing testing uptake is also an opportunity for business and the Welsh government to work together, as they have done so impressively throughout the pandemic. Key to that is improving guidance and sharing best practice.
The Covid-19 crisis has been long and cost too many lives and livelihoods. From vaccines to workplace testing, we must use every tool at our disposal to protect against further harm. With support from Government, business must once more step into the breach – particularly as we look towards a phased loosening of restrictions in March.