Thursday 10 September 2020 12:01 am

City firms look to home testing for return to work

A home-testing kit launching today could be the solution for City firms looking to get employees back to the office.

British saliva-based Covid-19 testing system Halo is the first commercial provider of the tests, which are designed for large organisations.

Read more: Virgin Atlantic joins calls for airport testing regime

It is understood that leading law and accountancy firms as well as some of the City’s fund managers are in talks to use the system.

The saliva tests, which require only a spit sample, are first done at home with results sent to the Halo app. The company says the test, which cost £50, is the long-term solution for companies to get back to business, with weekly retests in the workplace.

Chief executive Jonathan Biles told City A.M. “We built this to get people back to work – the only way you can get people back to normal life is to separate the sick from the healthy.”

Halo has also partnered with the University of Exeter to test students and staff at campuses in Exeter and Cornwall.

The Halo team is led by Dr Craig Rochford alongside biotech and computer scientists from Oxford University.

The NHS currently uses a nasal and throat swab but in recent weeks, as cases rise, many people with symptoms have struggled to obtain a test.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, the director of testing at NHS test and trace, said this week that the problem was not a lack of capacity at testing centres but in the labs that process the swabs. She described it as a “critical pinch-point”.

Yesterday the Prime Minister outlined his “moonshot plan” for mass testing with a pilot due to go live in Salford next month.

Read more: UK trials mass Covid-19 testing programme

Boris Johnson admitted there are “a number of challenges”, such as ensuring the technology works and there is a strong distribution network, adding: “We are not there yet.”

Dr Rochford said: “We believe HALO is the best COVID-19 testing system available commercially and at scale in Britain today. Saliva testing is becoming the de-facto gold standard for COVID 19 diagnostics and is as accurate, if not more accurate, than nasal and throat swab testing. As-well as being painless and more convenient, it is more cost-effective than all comparable tests.”