Portmeirion Group UK Ltd are the newest Stoke-on-Trent based employer to offer lateral flow testing to their employees following an appeal from Stoke-on-Trent City Council for businesses across the city to take part in the scheme.

Businesses in Stoke-on-Trent have the opportunity to roll out COVID-19 testing for their employees. So far 19 local businesses have signed up to the scheme.

By joining the city council programme, businesses in the city will be playing a key role in protecting their workforce and the wider community.

Samantha Pearce, HR Director at Portmeirion Group UK Ltd said: “Thanks to support and training from Stoke-on-Trent City Council we have been testing our colleagues at our head office and distribution centre sites since February 15 and the facility has been really well received by our colleagues. We have conducted over 800 tests, delivered by our team, to support their colleagues. The procedure involves a mouth and nose swab but results are generated in 30 minutes. With one in three people who have coronavirus never showing any symptoms, the regular staff testing, with self-isolation for those who test positive, helps to protect other staff from getting the virus. Stopping a chain of transmission helps the local community, the NHS and helps to reduce overall absences from work.

“We continue to put the safety of our colleagues at the forefront of everything that we do and the testing is another way of helping us to do this by breaking the potential chain of infection amongst our colleagues.

“Portmeirion Group has been demonstrating its leadership throughout the pandemic. One of the Group companies, Wax Lyrical in Cumbria, paused its production of candles and reed diffusers at the start of the pandemic, to manufacture hand sanitiser for the NHS, and then made it available for retail, offices and the public. Throughout the last 12 months staff at all the Group manufacturing, distribution and office sites have adhered to restrictions and extremely strict protocols and regimes when onsite. As evidenced by an “excellent” rating of Covid secure working arrangements by the Health & Safety Executive.”

Council leader Abi Brown said: “It is fantastic to hear how successful workplace testing has been so far at Portmeirion and how well received it has been by staff. By encouraging and facilitating businesses that still have staff in the workplace to take up lateral flow testing, cases can be identified quickly and large outbreaks can be avoided. Testing is a key part of supporting businesses to remain open but will also be crucial to support businesses re-opening safely as lockdown restrictions are lifted.

“Stoke-on-Trent was one of the first areas to pilot the lateral flow tests, championing the approach that in widening the testing, more people with the virus could self-isolate, thereby reducing the spread of infection. I encourage local businesses to either sign up or encourage employees to go to our community testing venues to get tested, to help protect essential services and businesses.”

This comes as the city council currently has the second highest testing rate in the West Midlands.

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing, said: “Testing alongside the vaccine are our best defences against the virus. If we want to make sure lockdown can be eased and we are out and about, then people must get tested once a week at least. Just like we all now wear face coverings and wash our hands, getting tested is something that we should also be doing.

“The testing offer across the city has increased dramatically. Twice-weekly testing using rapid lateral flow tests has been extended to households of school children, members of support bubbles, and people in childcare and related occupations, via assisted testing at community test sites, Community Collect or Direct to Home testing arrangements. If you don’t fall into this category you can still get tested at community test sites, community pharmacies and through your employer if they are taking part in the scheme. There is no excuse to not get tested weekly.”

Employers can contact LFTEnquiries@stoke.gov.uk to find out more about lateral flow testing or visit www.stoke.gov.uk/covidtestingforbusinesses

Community testing is for the asymptomatic and those with mild symptoms in Stoke-on-Trent Residents are able to book tests up to seven days in advance via the city council’s website www.stoke.gov.uk/bookacovid19test

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