Could a managed mass testing and screening service be the answer to a more rapid recovery in the hospitality sector?

By Stuart MacLennan – CEO, Circular1 Health (www.circular1.com)

As part of his roadmap to economic recovery, the Prime Minister pushed forward the idea of mass testing to open up the beleaguered hospitality industry. No doubt this will have been welcomed across the sector but for perhaps one caveat: why not sooner?

Larry Fink captured the mood in his recent letter to CEOs when he said that the biggest crises ‘…demand an ambitious response.’ His words throw down a challenge to those of us operating in the mass testing ‘space’: how can we be more ambitious? And how can we use mass test- ing to accelerate the economic recovery?

To find the answer the hospitality sector could do no better than looking at the example of other industries and whether their learnings could be translated into a hotel and leisure environment. Mass testing, as an end-to-end managed service, has already been used (and continues to be used) to support the mission-critical nuclear and defence sectors, for example, and creating safe bubbles within workforces. It is protecting not only their people, but also their corporate reputations. It is also ensuring – at its most fundamental level – that we still have the electricity we need to boil our kettles and protect our nation from nefarious influences!

The same ambitious response to these industries is now needed in hospitality.The ‘Test to Operate’ (T2O) model – an active combination of rapid testing and screening – can readily be adapted to create safe bubbles of passengers and staff to re-invigorate the Cruise sector, or re- open residential holiday and activity centres for example. But it could also accelerate the Prime Minister’s plans to re-open events including weddings, festivals, sports and other leisure activities, and – crucially – the numbers of people allowed to attend.

The roadmap currently allows for wedding receptions, funerals and wakes to host up to 30 people, but not until the third step (May 17) and even then, that is subject to change.That means hotels and other hospitality venues having to wait at least another three months before they can start recouping any of their losses over the last 12 months, but even then, many may choose to remain closed if the numbers don’t make economic sense.What if a pilot programme proved a wedding or similar event could have 100 or more guests, in a bubble, tested and screened along with the venue staff, to ensure everyone was safe and the event COVID-free? That is a plan that could be implemented now, without delay, and without further unnecessary pain being inflicted on the hospitality sector.

Given the UK tourism industry is estimated to be valued at £106 billion and support some 3.8 million jobs, the economic and financial imperative is clear for all to see. It just needs someone with ambition, to paraphrase Larry Fink’s words, to demonstrate what can really be achieved if we set our minds to it.