Avi Lasarow, CEO of Prenetics Europe, responds to the Prime Minister’s ‘end of the tunnel’ speech this week
This has been a week of good news for the UK, and all of us ‘getting back to work and play’, with the Prime Minister’s, and other government minister’s, statements on the proposed roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions. I explore below what this might mean for all of us over the year ahead, and longer-term. On either timeline, we are going to have a lot more freedom than we have enjoyed for over a year since the outbreak began, but we will also have to confront new ways of life which present not only new challenges, but new opportunities too.
For all the continuing stresses of lockdown, home-schooling and working from home, we may now see light at the end of the tunnel. The government has set an achievable, and perhaps conservative timetable with a proposed end to all lockdown measures on June 21 in this country. This will be subject to timely delivery of the ‘four tests’.
Some 30% of our population have received one of the two leading vaccines, with early reports suggesting 85% efficacy, rising to the nineties on the second dose promised for 3 months after. All of our over 50s population will have been offered the vaccine by the end of April. Sporting events will begin to allow attendance of crowds of 10,000. We are seeing EU countries, notably Greece, lobbying to re-open travel corridors, and offices looking at increasing amount of on-site testing.
Prenetics will be at the heart of delivery for all of the above, and we see the following avenues as being vital to this. We will be looking at nothing short of a new way of life, just as we did after 9/11, with international travel measures in place to prevent high impact, low possibility events.
1. Health passports are the way to freedom: what the government is calling Health Status Certificates, will become a central feature of a new liberty for workers, carers, and travellers. We fully recognise the challenges raised on liberty and welcome the review on these issues being undertaken by Cabinet. We are playing a key role in developing IP for the private sector which will be a key arm of delivery here. We have already launched a major partnership with a leading global IT services and consulting firm, and our proprietary app is already operating in stadia via our partners in the Premier League. We applaud the potential conversion of the NHS ‘track and trace’ app, but many officer workers and others will wish for privacy and efficacy to consider private sector solutions.
2. Testing is here to stay in ‘normal’ life: We hope in time to provide a widening of vaccination delivery via the private sector, just as we do with testing already via our airport an ‘Test to Release’ programmes at Heathrow, Stanstead, Luton and many others. We have learned already that vaccination does not eliminate transmission of the virus, which may continue to shed from even a successful and asymptomatic vaccinated subject. So, an individual may carry the virus, while not suffering themselves, but potentially still spread to others. We therefore expect that testing at airports will remain a feature for a long while, even for those carrying evidence of vaccination. Clearly, if you have a test within a qualifying period, not at the airport, this data can be shown on your health passport. Vaccination will not be the replacement for testing, but its partner.
3. ‘Back to play’ is the partner of ‘back to work’: Prenetics is already well established as the leading provider of testing in elite sports notably with the Premier League, for whom we also pioneered our proprietary health passport. We will be announcing shortly a strategic UK wide partnership with a leading international serviced office and facilities group. The technologies and processes we have developed for play are now turning out to be the partner, the forebear, of our ‘getting Britain back to work’ programmes. Shortly, Prenetics testing booths will become as familiar at the work place as they now are at our leading international airports. I will share on this topic soon.
So, we are at an exciting time as we all sense ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. Caution is our watchword, and so will be adaptability as we accept the costs to lifestyle of being in a state of prevention of any future pandemic of this scale, as well as preparedness for the new variations and viruses which will surely come.
A key feature of the new world will be reducing cost and ease of testing, with new rapid test technologies like our own OxLAMP and lateral flow antigen tests supporting the established RT-PCR diagnostic tests.