ISME calls for rapid Covid testing for people returning to work after Christmas

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Irish SME Association (ISME) is calling for increased access to rapid Covid-19 testing for workers after the Christmas period.

ISME says that the risk of a serious increase in Covid-19 infection rates in the workplace after the holidays is a huge concern for business owners across different sectors.

In response, the business association has written to the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to call for rapid Covid-19 testing of passengers coming in to Ireland from 1 January, and support for employers to provide rapid testing at the workplace for their employees.

ISME is concerned that a huge increase in international travel with people visiting Ireland or returning here after the holidays will result in a rise in cases.

“The issue was raised at a recent meeting of ISME’s National Council,” said said Neil Mc Donnell, CEO of ISME.

“With many businesses closed for up to two weeks during between Christmas and New Year, our members are concerned about large numbers of their workers, particularly across the service industry, booking leave between 18 December and 3 January, expecting to return home, travel or spend time with family home from abroad during this period.”

The most recent Labour Force Survey estimates that almost 16% of the workforce is non-national, and 6% of the total is from EU15 – EU27 countries. Significant numbers of these EU15 – EU27 workers are employed in the care, hospitality, construction, manufacturing, and logistics sectors.

“The current PCR testing regime is neither affordable nor operationally appropriate for the scale of testing that is needed,” added Neil Mc Donnell.

“We believe that a campaign of rapid testing in the workplace immediately after the Christmas break, with the immediate isolation of suspected positive cases, would greatly mitigate any increase in the Covid-19 caseload in the New Year.”