Ocado buys 100,000 testing kits for staff costing £1.4million as supermarkets ramp up coronavirus safety measures but vows to hand them to NHS workers if they are left without
- Ocado wants its workers tested regularly so deliveries for elderly/at risk are safe
- 3.5m testing kits have been bought for NHS workers but are still being rolled out
- Waitrose have banned couples from stores, Tesco Express limiting some goods to one per customer and Sainsbury’s have introduced safety screens for staff
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Ocado has bought 100,000 coronavirus testing kits for its staff at a cost of £1.4million, but has promised to hand them over to the NHS if they need them.
The food delivery company wants all of its workers to be tested regularly to ensure they are safe to drop off supplies to elderly or vulnerable customers who are ‘shielding’ for 12 weeks.
Ocado claims 40,000 tests have already been delivered to stores across the UK, with 60,000 more to go, reports The Guardian.
But the firm refused to reveal where they have bought the tests, with questions raised over why supermarket staff have been able to get access to them before thousands of NHS frontline workers.
Private health firms have also come under fire for selling businesses test kits for as much as £295 each.
The Government has been slammed for its slow roll out of testing for staff, who are being forced to stay away from work if they or people in their household have symptoms, creating a devastating knock-on effect for patient care.
Ocado has bought 100,000 coronavirus testing kits for its staff at a cost of £1.4million
Ocado staff are pictured packing boxes at a warehouse in Hatfield, Hertfordshire
Public Health England has bought 3.5million testing kits, but these are currently only available for critical care staff and are taking time to reach other key hospital workers.
Health Minister Helen Whately said the NHS is now able to test 10,000 staff a day, but at the weekend only 7,000 a day were actually carried out.
She told the BBC’s Today programme the Health Service will be able to test 25,000 workers every day ‘within the next three weeks’.
Meanwhile supermarkets Waitrose, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have not yet announced any plans to swab their staff to see if they have the virus.
They are also key workers who need to be able to know if they are infected or not so they can do their job safely and avoid any unnecessary sick leave.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has said roll-out of testing will begin for frontline healthcare workers this week after some staff were sampled on Saturday and Sunday.
The latest letter states that key NHS staff and anyone they live with who is ill are first in line for testing.
The food delivery firm refused to reveal where they have bought the tests (one pictured), with questions raised over why supermarket staff have been able to get access to them before thousands of NHS frontline workers
It says hospitals should ‘start this week with those working in critical care, emergency departments and ambulance services, and any other high priority groups you determine locally.
‘We will then sequentially expand to other NHS staff groups as more tests are made available to the NHS, and ultimately into other essential public services including social care.
‘In the first instance, we ask that you identify those staff in these initial priority groups (including critical care, emergency departments and ambulance services) who are unable to work because of the requirement for 14-day self-isolation.
‘These are staff living in a household where another individual may have Covid-19.
‘Trust chief executives tell us that, while this is the right action for staff members to have taken, it is this group that is causing the greatest degree of absenteeism, potentially for no underlying clinical reason on the part of the staff member herself/himself.
Sainsbury’s has reduced the number of checkouts to space shoppers out and has introduced safety screens (one pictured in London) to protect their cashiers, as has Morrisons
‘NHS organisations will use these tests to allow key staff to return to work if the index case in their home is Covid-19 free.’
Trusts are told to identify staff or household members who need to be tested, ‘with a particular focus on testing the suspected coronavirus sufferer in a quarantined household which is shared with a key NHS staff member’.
Trusts should initially allocate up to 15 per cent of daily testing capacity for this purpose, and tests should be carried out as soon after symptoms develop as possible ‘to maximise the accuracy of the result’.
A share of the 15 per cent should also be made available for ambulance trusts and any other high priority groups determined locally, the letter says.
Last week Public Health England said a home-testing pin prick test could be available ‘within days’ and would be available to buy on the High Street or on Amazon.
Waitrose (one pictured in south London yesterday) has banned couples from shopping in their stores, claiming they clog up queues and only person per household needs to buy supplies
But Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, who is self-isolating are testing positive for the virus himself, later played down the idea that millions of tests would be available nationwide.
The testing kit devices are currently being checked at a site in Oxford to see if they work properly.
Ministers are believed to have placed orders for 17.5million testing kits to shorten the UK lockdown and mitigate the crippling economic and social impact on Britons.
Businesses still open across Britain claim they are taking all the measures they can to keep ‘key workers’ safe.
There are fears supermarkets could become hotbeds for COVID-19, despite social distancing measures, with some experts claiming 1.6million people could already be infected.
The ‘big four’ supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury’s Morrisons and Asda have all enforced strict social distancing in their stores, with queues of shoppers spaced six feet apart.
Sainsbury’s has reduced the number of checkouts to space shoppers out and has introduced safety screens to protect their cashiers, as has Morrisons.
Waitrose has banned couples from shopping in their stores, claiming they clog up queues and only person per household needs to buy supplies.
Tesco Express stores are limiting certain essential purchases, including eggs, milk, bread and toilet roll, to one item per customer.
Tesco’s larger stores are limiting shopping groups to two people and imposing a maximum of 80 items for online checkout.
A spokesman for Tesco said yesterday: ‘To ensure more people have access to everyday essentials, we have introduced a store-wide restriction of three items per customer on every product line.
‘In a small number of stores where demand is particularly high, our colleagues may need to place further restrictions on some products on a local basis, to ensure everyone can get the things they need.’
All supermarkets are encouraging people to pay by contactless card payment to avoid hand touching when giving checkout staff cash.
They are also setting aside allocated time slots for those shopping on behalf of elderly, vulnerable or NHS workers, to have priority both in store and online.
Each other supermarkets have posted on social media to outline the steps they are taking to protect fronline ‘key workers’
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