Covid-19 Rapid Antigen Testing

Keeping workplaces safe and a possible route back to normality

The testing as a service solution provided by Tutum Workplace combines best in class technology with bespoke testing procedures supplied by our leading Occupational Health Partner – Latus Health.

Whilst the news is full of information regarding vaccines and the now imminent rollout of the vaccination program, the need for testing will remain high throughout this process.  Allowing for the capture of asymptomatic carriers to help prevent the spread to those who may not receive the vaccine for some time or at all.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, testing has been the only way to ensure safety outside of a total lockdown for all ‘normal life’ activities. Up until this point, government, NHS and the private sector have relied on the RT-PCR testing method to detect positive cases. PCR has been named the gold standard for Covid-19 testing. With its high sensitivity and specificity, all other proposed testing methods are compared to it, to deem them good or bad tests.

Whilst PCR testing has been the preferred testing method, it carries a number of characteristics which mean it is not perfect for all use-cases and has meant diagnostic companies have been working to develop viable alternatives. PCR testing can be expensive, making it cost prohibitive to mass screening and usually provides results in 24 – 48 hours meaning the result an individual receives is technically historic.

Everyone has been looking for a test for current infection which can be regularly repeated on mass, which is low cost and gives on the spot results. This testing technology is now available, and Latus Health have been using these tests in its clinics throughout November. There are a number of diagnostic manufacturers producing a rapid antigen test for Covid-19, all with similar technical specifications and performance characteristics.

So far, Latus Health have been using the Roche Rapid Antigen Test. The early results that they are seeing show that the tests are performing well, identifying asymptomatic positive workers at different businesses and over 98% of suspected positives, via the rapid antigen test, have been confirmed via PCR test as true positive at the lab.

The tests are proving to be an efficient way of testing on mass, with a team of 2 (1 nurse and 1 assistant) easily testing 25 people per hour. With this set up, an individual attends their appointment with the nurse to collect their nasal swab sample and only has to wait for 15 minutes to learn their result. Whilst they wait for their result, the nurse can continue to collect swab samples from other workers.

Since commencing testing with the rapid antigen test in early November, Latus Health have tested over 2,016 employees. 121 suspected positives have been identified in the rapid clinics with 119 confirmed as true positives via PCR test.

These results show that the test is performing in real world use, very similar to the lab validation results reported for the test. The technical validation specification for the test is 96.5% for sensitivity and 99.6% for specificity. Often real-world performance is lower than lab validation, due to variable factors which can affect the accuracy of results, but early signs are very positive for these tests.

The DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care) are using rapid antigen tests for Operation Moonshot, as they aim to test the whole country every week. UK Gov scientific advisors are keen to stress that the rapid tests should be used with a screening protocol. Meaning that regular testing is required. They advise that rapid antigen tests should be performed every 3 days as a best case, but this can be extended to a minimum of once per week.

This is great news for businesses keen to ensure a Covid-secure environment in which workers can be confident that they are not working alongside positive colleagues.   Which in turn provides the assurance and confidence of the testing service businesses and industry are employing when they engage the Tutum Workplace solution.