How to Legally Offer Cheap Antigen Testing within your Company or Organisation (non-US)
Antigen tests give results in 15 mins and are 10X cheaper than PCR tests.
There are antigen tests available that are EU approved for clinical use.
As an employer or organisation, you can legally do antigen testing if you contract a clinical work to oversee the tests.
Employers/organisations currently have three options to avoid the spread of COVID-19:
Use social distancing and improve workplace ventilation = good idea, not perfect but should be continued.
Monitor symptoms, i.e. give employees questionnaires for symptoms (fever, cough etc.) = inaccurate because i) infected people can spread before showing symptoms, ii) not everyone shows symptoms.
Do PCR testing = $100+ per test and slow to get results.
In the European Union, there is now a fourth option that is legal, which is antigen testing with clinical supervision. This blog provides some ideas on how employers/organisations could implement this approach to make their workplace safer.
The benefits of antigen testing
You can test cheaply (<10 euro per test) and therefore frequently.
Test results are immediate (<15 mins).
Tests are quite accurate at detecting contagiousness (>95% sensitivity).
Here is a great resource for antigen tests in general - www.rapidtests.org - built by a Harvard professor.
The one caveat is that antigen tests are currently only approved in the EU for clinical use for symptomatic patients. However, you can comply with this requirement as an organisation or employer by contracting a nurse/doctor to oversee testing. You could maybe even get creative and do this by video.
How to implement this in your workplace or organisation:
Get some antigen tests:
The test with the highest sensitivity I can find is the Flowflex Antigen test (EU approved but not approved in the US yet). These can be purchased in bulk for less than 10 euro per test. Comment below or contact me and I can connect you to a bulk supplier (minimum order is 800 tests) if that would be of help.
2. Hire a nurse or doctor to oversee testing:
I'm a bit green on this front but I think it should be possible - potentially via locum nurse/doctor hiring services. There may also be insurance matters to consider.
Please contact me if you know how to hire nurses/doctors on contract. I think the ideal would be to contract with a locum agency that can provide a nurse's or doctor's services for a certain number of hours per week.
3. Get the nurse/doctor in once or twice per week
Either send antigen tests to people's homes and then have the nurse/doctor instruct them by video call OR have people tested as they arrive at work.
Testing is not a replacement for social distancing, masks and good ventilation. Good practises should continue.
If there is a positive test, the person should go for a confirmatory PCR test, if possible.
What is the benefit for you - an employer or organisation?
Simple - you're going to catch more people early on that are spreading the virus but don't show symptoms.
Comment below with other thoughts OR if you would be interested in this kind of service as an employer or organisation. The service could be: a) remote video antigen testing for your employees - probably could work for even small organisations, b) on site testing, probably only makes sense for sites with 50+ employees/people.
Lastly, my view remains that the Irish government should provide emergency approval for rapid antigen tests (that are already allowed for clinical use) be allowed for self testing. This would be much better than people relying on symptoms for diagnosis. Here is my analysis of why.