12,000 tests a day will take place at drive-through testing centres, while the remaining 5,000 will be carried out at home
Employers will be able to book colleagues in for a test using an online portal
The government is rolling out a coronavirus testing programme this week for all key workers, including those in the food and drink industry, The Grocer can reveal.
The new antigen testing push is aimed at enabling workers who are self-isolating, are symptomatic or have family members self-isolating back to work should they test negative for the virus.
The Grocer understands the aim is to be able to carry out 17,000 tests a day by the end of April.
Of these, 12,000 a day will take place at up to 48 drive-through testing centres. It is understood these could be housed in university car parks.
The remaining 5,000 daily tests will be carried out at home. The necessary kits will be delivered and collected by an Amazon courier service, with results provided within 48 hours.
Employers will be able to book colleagues in for a test using an online portal. They will also be made available for the families of key workers.
“This is an excellent development but there are major concerns over the capacity and how robust the process will be,” said one leading industry source familiar with the plans.
“There are only 5,000 at-home test kits available. Demand could flood the programme and cause a backlog.”
The impact of high levels of absenteeism in both stores and production facilities has been identified as one of the key threats to the continuity of the food supply chain since the onset of the coronavirus crisis.
Testing will be available to all food and drink employees, as well as other key workers including NHS, police and prison officers.
The testing programme is being led by Debbie White, former CEO at Interserve, who is currently advising the Department of Education during the crisis.
I comes after industry leaders met last month to discuss ways a government rollout of testing for hospital staff and other emergency workers could be extended to key workers in the food supply chain.