Car dealers of all sizes can now sign up to receive free rapid coronavirus tests from the government.
From today (March 6), the Department of Health and Social Care says businesses including those with less than 50 staff, can order the lateral flow tests for their teams.
Results from the tests can be returned in half an hour and anyone testing positive should be told to isolate immediately.
With dealerships set to reopen on April 12, regular testing could help keep staff and customers safe.
A number of the larger dealer groups are already testing staff.
Mark Lavery, CEO of Cambria Automobiles, recently told Car Dealer his business was testing dealership staff twice a week.
Car dealers have until March 31 to register for the scheme, which will remain free until the end of June.
DHSC said so far more than 3,500 businesses had signed up to offer workplace testing programmes, and more than 14,000 had registered their interest in offering rapid testing.
The department said regular testing ‘could be the difference between a workplace being able to stay open and operational, or needing to close due to a Covid-19 outbreak’.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Regular workplace testing is a vital part of our route back to normal life.
‘These rapid tests will allow positive cases of Covid-19 to be caught quickly, which is crucial in helping businesses protect their workplaces and employees as we cautiously lift restrictions.’
DHSC said the expansion of asymptomatic testing was ‘well underway’ in larger companies for those who need to leave home for work.
It said both private and public sector employers had signed up to provide rapid testing at asymptomatic testing sites, alongside a ‘self-test’ option for those that cannot access a workplace testing site.
All local authorities are also offering rapid lateral flow testing for small businesses if they are unable to offer it at the workplace. Car dealers can contact their local councils for more information.
Regular testing is an integral part of the government’s plan to ease lockdown in the coming months, but current advice is that people who can work from home should continue to do so.
Many staff in car dealerships cannot do their job from home, so need to travel to the showrooms regularly.
As part of its roadmap out of lockdown, the government has said that by June 21 it will have conducted a review examining social-distancing measures, the use of face masks and requirements around working from home.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director to Public Health England and chief medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace, said rapid testing could help detect asymptomatic cases quickly and stop workplace outbreaks occurring.
She said: ‘Combined with other protective measures, rapid testing is a vital tool to help us lower infection rates and ensure that they stay low. If you’re offered a test, please do take it.’
Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said a workplace testing infrastructure that works for firms and consumers was ‘fundamental to bringing the coronavirus under control and ensuring that this current lockdown is the last’.
‘It’s great to see that the smallest businesses can now apply to set-up testing facilities on their premises,’ he added.
Confederation of British Industry chief UK policy director Matthew Fell, said helping more companies access testing was would ‘help protect workers and help stifle Covid transmission’.
Businesses can find out more about rapid workplace testing via this online portal.
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