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Staying Open for Business

Asymptomatic workplace screening: keeping online retail open for business

Online shopping has already seen tremendous growth in 2020 and spending is set to have a further sharp rise over the next six weeks. Maintaining safe, robust, well-staffed operations is, unquestionably, a top priority, and to this end, a number of leading ecommerce specialists have already implemented routine virus screening programmes. In the run-up to Christmas, firms from across the fulfilment landscape are rapidly following suit.

A radical shift in consumer behaviour

After the first lockdown was announced in March '20, retailers moved at warp-speed to set up, accelerate and enhance their online offerings. This work has undoubtedly paid off: despite eased restrictions over the summer, the high-street continued to suffer from falling demand and many firms have only managed to stay afloat through sales from their ecommerce channels.

While an online spending rise has been on the cards for months (in September Liverpool-based delivery firm Yodel announced almost 3000 new jobs in anticipation of the "busiest festive period in recent history"), with shops unable to open until December 3rd at the earliest, that rise is likely to be considerably greater.

Research published by the firm VoucherCodes now expects online sales to account for as much as 48% of this year's Christmas spending; a dramatic 58.2% increase on 2019.  

How routine testing can help ecommerce keep pace with surging demand

Nine months into the pandemic, we now know that a large percentage of people who contract the virus remain asymptomatic. We also know that both pre-symptomatic people and those who remain asymptomatic, are potential 'silent transmitters' who may, unwittingly, pass the virus on to others. Furthermore, until a vaccine is available, it is widely acknowledged that regular asymptomatic screening is the country's best option for re-opening the economy.

As there is still no provision for asymptomatic workplace screening through NHS Test and Trace, heads of warehousing, logistics, manufacturing and retail operations are making their own. Alongside large-scale process redesign, enhanced cleaning and other Covid-19 safety protocols, Ocado is offering screening to frontline workers in their bid to "continue to safely provide a vital service to as many customers as possible." Ecommerce giant Amazon, having developed and scaled in-house testing capability in the US, is now ramping up across their sites in the UK. Swabs are processed at Amazon's lab in Manchester and UK project leader Antoine Dreyfus has said: "providing regular testing for our employees will allow us to identify asymptomatic cases who might not otherwise be tested. We're able to catch the virus earlier and place those individuals in quarantine, with full pay, so they can recover before infecting others. We believe this programme will help save lives."

While building swab to lab in-house testing capability is out of reach for most businesses, setting up a programme is relatively straightforward, provided you have the right partners in place. At Covid Testing Network we have supported occupational health specialists and their clients to implement workplace testing since the start of the pandemic. We have advised on programme strategy and delivered testing across a wide range of industries and scales, from single-site warehouses to multi-site manufacturing operations with complex shift patterns.  

Just give us a call

Our network of DHSC approved labs run gold-standard Antigen PCR tests, returning results in 24 hours for as little as £37 / unit  (scale testing). With the network of labs in place and deep experience in end to end programme set-up we are able to provide rapid, bespoke assistance, minimising the time it takes to get your programme off the ground. For an initial conversation, please reach out to our Head of Client Management, Ami Jayakrishnan.


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