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Logistics companies are paying thousands of pounds to private clinics to test their drivers and warehouse staff for the coronavirus in the absence of widespread testing for the disease by the NHS.

In a bid to secure their supply chains and fulfil contractual obligations during the pandemic, some companies are paying upwards of £250 per test to ensure their fleets of drivers are free of the virus.

Private clinics are preparing for a rapid rise in requests for the testing kits as infection rates rise and following the government’s decision to introduce stricter measures yesterday (16 March) requiring those with coronavirus symptoms to self-isolate for 14 days.

Dr Grant Charlesworth-Jones, medical director of Summerfield Healthcare, which offers coronavirus testing told MT: “Testing is essential if companies want to keep the supply chains running. It is keeping those who can work in circulation.

“Those infected with Coronavirus do not show symptoms for the first five days. Testing allows firms to establish who is carrying the virus and isolate them before they infect others.

“Testing can also establish that symptoms, for example for the common cold, are not mistaken for coronavirus, removing unnecessary self-isolation for 14 days.”

The test, which costs £249, follows government guidelines prescribed for the testing of COVID-19 and is recognised by Public Health England (PHE). Customers are sent mouth swab kits which are returned by post to a UKAS accredited laboratory, with results emailed back.

Charlesworth-Jones added: “We have a number of large fleets that are using our service. We tested 200 drivers from one firm last Saturday, after the company contacted us on the Friday.

“The results were back by Monday which showed two drivers had the virus, which meant they could be isolated from the rest of the workforce.”

SureScreen Diagnostics in Derby is offering a coronavirus testing kit which it says can give results in ten minutes.

The test identifies the virus 3-5 days after infection. The test cassette is posted to recipients and requires a finger-prick sample to be taken, similar to a home blood glucose test and gives a result within ten minutes.

Director David Campbell said the speed of the test results was critical unlike those tests which require samples be sent to a lab.

“Meanwhile someone could be spreading the virus without knowing,” he added.

The Private Harley Street Clinic in London is also offering coronavirus private tests for £375 to businesses and individuals, although the clinic says the tests which are not approved by PHE should be treated as “pre-screening.”

The clinic has said “two to three large corporations” have requested the test.

However, Rod Mckenzie, RHA MD of poli​cy and public affairs, told "I am unhappy at private companies charging lots of money for these tests which may not be as verified as the NHS tests and which could cause companies to waste a lot of money.

"We keep hearing from WHO that testing is all important and I think the government is finally changing its position on this to hopefully make tests more widely available which will be a good thing.

"This will provide assurance and ensures isolation of those that are infected, so having these tests done by the NHS is what is needed."