Author: LabSolnBlog

Leicester Lockdown: We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet

Last Monday, Boris Johnson explained that whereas the rest of country will have opened up by July 4th, Leicester will remain locked down. This came as a surprise to many and added a sour note to the triumphal announcements of the past few weeks. It certainly came as a surprise to Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby who took to Sky News to express scepticism regarding the government’s decision, claiming that the disproportionate rise in the number of cases is a direct result of disproportionate testing. 

In any case, what is the government’s reasoning for extending the lockdown in Leicester? Well, according to findings from Public Health England, which recently added a regional dimension to its monitoring of COVID-19 cases, Leicester saw a surge in the fortnight following June 8th, an increase of 900 cases. During this period, confirmed cases in Leicester accounted for 1 in 16 positive tests. There have been reports of school closures as well as problems with a number of workplaces in the preceding weeks – Health Secretary Matt Hancock singled out clothing factories in the area as particular hot-spots. Concerns have also been raised over the effects of local Black Lives Matter protests.

For the people of Leicester, these announcements are disturbing. Our thoughts are with them. For the rest of us, the Leicester lockdown serves as a reminder that our own individual responses to the pandemic remain important, especially those of us who run businesses. 

The Leicester lockdown also raises questions about the potential use of these measures for other areas. The reports from Public Health England which identified the rapid uptick in Leicester also registered comparable rates of activity in the West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester regions. The BBC graphed these readings

Importantly, Leicester is not the first city to be subject to what Boris Johnson referred to as the government’s “whack-a-mole strategy”. Outbreaks linked to a hospital in Weston-super-Mare, a meat-packing factory in Cleckheaton and a number of GP surgeries in London lead to similar local lockdowns.

Clearly, as the Prime Minister has said, “we are not out of the woods yet”. A few weeks ago, we compiled some of the guidance on workplace health and safety, filling in the gaps with regard to preventing against infection. Understanding the risks to your employees and how to mitigate them is now more important than ever. 

For more information and to view our range of workplace safety products, including rapid COVID-19 test kits, visit our website

How Effective Are Antibody Tests?

On Thursday, the not-for-profit research organisation Cochrane released their report on the efficacy of antibody testing in detecting COVID-19. As an internationally-recognised institution, Cochrane’s verdict has been eagerly awaited – and with the rise of antibody testing around Europe that we wrote about last week, this report could have serious ramifications for a number of governments.

The headline finding from the report is that only 30% of those with COVID-19 received a positive test within the first week of infection. A number of explanations have been advanced. One explanation is that it is simply too early for the body to have created a detectable number of antibodies. Yet, if we wait until the third week of infection, 90% of infected people return a positive test, so there is no doubt that the tests work. The problem is that the tests aren’t as effective as antigen tests – like those which can be obtained from the NHS here – in identifying whether you currently have the virus in the early stages.

But is this really all that shocking? Antibody testing was never meant to replace antigen testing because it serves a different purpose. As viral immunologist Zania Stamataki explains, antigen testing cannot indicate how far along the patient might be in their fight against COVID-19, cannot identify those that have had the virus but are no longer infected and therefore cannot aid in monitoring levels of immunity within a country. It is also worth noting that as of right now, there are no rapid antigen tests available, whereas there are a number of such antibody tests – one of which is available for purchase on our website. This means that whilst results in the first week or so might not be incredibly reliable, antibody tests still represent the most convenient option for the public.

So: using an antibody test to identify whether you have the virus immediately after the onset of symptoms is perhaps not the most effective response. However, antibody testing should always be regarded as only one aspect of a workplace’s procedure for detecting infection. This is why Lab Solutions’ Return2Work, our COVID-19 response kit, comes with an external thermometer. If an employee displays symptoms, identifying whether they coincide with a high temperature will give a good initial indication of their health. If a high temperature is discovered, it should be protocol to send the employee home to self-isolate for at least seven days. At this point, equipping your employee with a number of antibody tests remains crucial. This well help them more closely monitor their situation and make an informed decision on when it is safe for them to return to work.

For more information on our COVID-19 product range, visit our website.

To PPE or Not to PPE: Is the Crisis Over?

Over the last few days, the situation in the UK has radically changed. Following the Prime Minister’s announcements in the House of Commons on Tuesday, all sorts of small businesses must be prepared to reopen on 4thJuly. 

Whilst, undoubtedly, this news will be triumphantly received by many small businesses, this is no simplistic return to a pre-COVID-19 economy. The key feature of this new phase is the change to the so-called “two-metre rule” – a measure which has become an unquestioned aspect of daily life for many. Now, Britons are only required to remain one metre apart. Such a rule is precisely designed to restart the economy. Many of the SMEs which are due to reopen, like hotels, restaurants, pubs, hairdressers, cinemas and theatres, all require a certain degree of proximity.  

However, some have raised concerns. The main issue is that no matter how far people remain apart, the use of PPE remains by far the most effective behaviour in combatting infection. In this way, the reduction to one metre should not be read as an invitation to negligence. It is, on the contrary, more important than ever to generalise the use of PPE in public spaces. 

Indeed, all of the new rules should be read in this way. There is still a risk – perhaps a more significant risk than is alleged by the government, according to some health-care professionals – that infection rates will increase once more. Now more than ever in this crisis, the British public are being trusted with the health of the nation. SMEs, especially, are being trusted. This is why, on the Lab Solutions blog, there are a number of short posts detailing the measures that SMEs can take to prevent infection. If you can over the next few days, take a moment to check them out.

If you are in need of PPE or other tools for keeping your workplace safe, visit our website

Antibody Tests: Is This How Lockdown Will End?

Recently, it has been reported that antibody testing could become more widespread in Europe and the United States as various governments begin to consider ways to ease the lockdown. 

Antibody tests are designed to test whether someone has had a virus in the past. If you have had a certain virus, your immune system will have developed specific antibodies which can be identified by these tests, which range from swab tests to blood tests. Usually, having these antibodies grants the person at least a period of immunity against the virus. It is for this reason that antibody tests for COVID-19 are now being widely considered, since a positive antibody test might then enable the person to return to work. Antibody testing on a large scale could be the key to easing the lockdown and restarting the economy.

At the beginning of June, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its first authorisation for an antibody blood test. As might be known to those in the field, the FDA sets a near-global standard for commercial pharmaceuticals which means that many other countries should soon be following suit. 

Similarly, the UK government has been slowly increasing its antibody testing and commercial enterprises throughout the country have begun to offer their own as well. At Lab Solutions, we have recently released Return2Work, a COVID-19 response kit which includes surgical gloves and masks, an external thermometer for monitoring temperatures and a simple antibody blood test. 

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the government are considering so-called ‘immunity certificates’ that would be awarded in the event of a positive antibody test and entitle the certificate-holder to return to work, among other privileges. However, the German government – who have been ahead of the UK in using antibody tests – raised concerns when they were considering a similar idea last month. The main concern is that it would create a two-tier system, leading to community resentments that might negate the positive benefits of the scheme.

For further information on our test kits, take a look at our website.

An SME’s guide to mitigating infection in the workplace

As an SME, we’ve been eager to find information on managing the risks to our employees’ health. Luckily, there are a number of resources available to small businesses who have already re-opened or are set to reopen in the coming weeks. 

Some of the resources we found most useful can be found on the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Federation of Small Businesses’ websites, including downloadable risk-management checklists, accessible legal guidance and up-to-date reporting on government policy. 

Much of the guidance focusses on changes to work-flow or organisation. For example, maintaining social distancing is an essential requirement for any business operating in the near-future, so you might consider bright floor-markers which guide your employees through their procedures whilst ensuring they are two metres apart. Similarly, the cleaning of surfaces will have to occur more frequently, prompting suggestions to reduce working hours in order to maintain this necessarily high standard of cleanliness. 

In addition to these sorts of changes, improvements in personal hygiene practices while at work will also be required. Instituting protocols such as frequent hand-washing (especially in workplaces which will be serving customers in person), the tying up of long hair and, where possible, a strict separation of work materials between employees, i.e. distributing digital copies of documents instead of sharing physical ones, attempting not to share pens, keyboards, mugs, chairs, etc. A determining factor in the efficacy of these measures appears to be generalising the use of PPE within your workplace. 

One of the most important aspects of new workplace practice is the protocol for determining and reacting to the infection of an employee. Yet, this is a discussion missing from many of the available guides and checklists.

At Lab Solutions, we had an idea. If small businesses had some convenient means to detect infection, they might be able to respond quickly enough to prevent further contamination. That’s why we’re offering Return2Work, a COVID-19 response kit which includes surgical gloves, masks, an external thermometer and a quick blood-test. 

Alongside all the other preventative measures that have been outlined so far, Return2Work’s external thermometer in particular might be a helpful addition to your new health and safety procedures. For example, by monitoring the temperatures of employees as they enter work at the beginning of the day and leave at the end, you can stay abreast of any stark increases. These measurements will then indicate whether someone needs to use Return2Work’s quick blood-test, which will confirm whether the temperature increase is a result of COVID-19. 

Staying aware in this way gives you the freedom to be versatile in your health and safety procedures, tightening or loosening your protocols depending on the results of tests. This versatility is possible because Return2Work gives you both greater power to prevent and respond to infection.

If you feel that Return2Work might be useful for your business or would like further information, visit our website.

How can SMEs mitigate infection risks?

As the country prepares to return to work over the next few months, many small businesses are wary of the risks that doing so poses to their employees. At Lab Solutions, we’ve been eager to find some information on mitigating these risks. Luckily, we found a number of online resources that can provide you with both legal guidance and practical advice. 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has released a number of downloadable guides for businesses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These guides relate to a number of specific industries and workplaces. Depending on the nature and size of your business, then, you may have to use a few of these guides in combination. Different guidance is available for education and childcare as well as the transport industry.

Alongside specific guidance for different sectors, a more general checklist has been released. Of primary importance, the checklist states, is carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment that meets the criteria of the Health and Safety Executive. The organisation has published these criteria alongside further information on generalising hygiene procedures, maintaining social distancing and other practices to ensure the safety of your workplace in this guide

In response to these guidelines, the Federation of Small Businesses has published its own advice to ensure that you have the resources to implement them in an even more diverse range of workplaces. For example, their health and safety checklist includes a discussion of customer safety which considers the possibilities for maintaining social distancing and minimising surface-transmission by altering the layout of your workplace, i.e. separating exit and entrance doors or shifting to a kiosk-style, semi-outdoor way of serving where possible. 

Similarly, the Federation’s Legal Hub – for which you’ll need an account with the organisation – provides free risk assessment templates as well as updates and guidance on the specifics of the law regarding business practices as it evolves over the coming months. Indeed, both the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Federation of Small Businesses offer an invaluable service as news sources for companies at this time.

Using these guides and checklists, we have been able to adapt our business to this new economy without serious losses to productivity and the breadth of information available means that whatever your business, you can adapt, too. Why wait? 

For more information, visit our website.

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