Coronavirus testing firm furloughs half its staff after government didn't respond to offers to help

Sanjana Varghese
Friday 01 May 2020 08:15
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(Pool/AFP/Getty)

A coronavirus testing firm has had to furlough staff after it says the government ignored its offers to supply Covid-19 testing kits.

Better2Know, a Cumbrian firm, has been making covid-19 testing kits as part of its services. They usually supply testing kits for sexually transmitted infections, and have been doing so for a decade.

According to Huffington Post, out of the 16 employees at Better2Know, seven have had to be furloughed. The company says that it could provide at least 2,000 test kits for Covid-19 every week, and has even delivered one for an NHS trust at the beginning of April.

Better2Know has been selling medically accredited Covid-19 home testing kits since February – they build sample collection kits which can be ordered online. These are then sent to a private lab. This test is known as an antigen test, and tests like these have been crucial in sending NHS staff into work.

The government has come under criticism for failing to meet its 100,000 tests a day benchmark that it set by the end of April, and NHS workers have not been tested in sufficient quantities.

Michael Asher, the co-founder and chief executive told HuffPost:

Despite regularly offering these resources to [health secretary] Matt Hancock and the Department of Health and Social Care from the beginning of this crisis, our offers have fallen on deaf ears, without receiving any acknowledgement or request for more information.

Better2Know has also had to apply for a loan from the government backed scheme in order to keep it afloat, despite the fact that much of the company’s expertise and previous work in home testing could be useful in this area.

Asher said that the company had contacted Public Health England at the end of March, and has now submitted a ministerial question to understand why they’ve been ignored.

He said that the government may have focussed too much on larger suppliers and ignored the fact that they could work with local suppliers to roll out testing more efficiently on a smaller scale.

The firm has also written to their MPs, Tim Farron and David Morris, to raise the problem. Tim Farron has replied to say that he will raise the issue with Matt Hancock in writing.

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