The Area Commander for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue has said the widespread use of lateral flow devices (LFDs) has been a ‘vital resource in protecting teams and allowing the Service to operate at full capacity’.
According to Stuart Smith, regular testing using Innova’s lateral flow tests has proved pivotal in supporting staff wellbeing and ensuring the Service can continue to operate as normal focusing on the job at hand – protecting lives across the region.
The Service introduced the LFDs, which enable a rapid test of infectiousness for Covid-19 to be carried out, for staff in December 2020. Since then, around 200 colleagues across its 28 stations have had access to their own test kits, which are being used twice a week.
Stuart said: ‘Since December, we’ve conducted over 1,200 Lateral Flow tests, of which, eight have come back positive – six of these were from asymptomatic individuals. If it wasn’t for the tests, this outbreak could have spread among the team and left us without a particular watch or more for 10 days. Luckily all have since recovered, but it had the potential to infect many more individuals.
‘The devices are our front line in identifying cases across our teams, even from asymptomatic individuals. As they provide us with results within 30 minutes, the tests have enabled us to quickly adapt shift patterns and isolate positive individuals, with all positive results corroborated with subsequent PCR tests.
‘Despite Covid, the Service hasn’t seen a great drop in demand for call-outs; in fact we have been slightly busier than usual at times. We’ve got 120 staff also volunteering across the county supporting with the vaccine rollout, staff working in hospitals support the fitting of personal protective equipment and helping supporting ambulance crews.’
The Service is rolling out two testing regimes among staff: those who regularly mix with others – from cleaning staff and those in fire control rooms, to full-time firefighters and training-centre staff – all receive kits which allow them to test at home twice a week, in line with healthcare workers; and secondly, ad-hoc tests on a weekly basis, for those who don’t interact regularly – such as on-call fighters, senior leaders and support staff who can test when they need it – rolled out across 17 station testing sites.
A firefighter working on the front line said: ‘I am really happy we’ve implemented the use of Lateral Flow Tests at CFRS. It gives an extra bit of peace of mind, knowing that if someone isn’t showing symptoms, they will know they’re positive. It not only helps us protect each other but the community we work in and also our families at home.’
Stuart added: ‘Our daily automated testing system means a results table is sent to the leadership team daily, meaning we have a holistic view of the data which shows how many tests have been taken in the last day, week and month. If an individual has been in a certain shift and has shown to be positive, we can intervene quickly to stop cross contamination between shifts.
‘There’s definitely an analogy between fighting Covid and fighting fires. The sooner you can get to a call-out, the greater chance you have for extinguishing the fire and saving lives. It’s the same for the pandemic too.
‘The Innova tests are like our fire alarms. They provide a real benefit as they give us near-immediate warning within 30 minutes, rather than a PCR test which can take a day or more to give results. The sooner we know people have Covid, the faster we can intervene, isolate and lessen the impact.
‘It’s been a really tough time for everyone across our region but especially so for front-line workers, such as those in the Service, who have had to continue their service despite Covid. I’d like to say a thank you to our staff for their relentless hard work over this time and their support in take up of the tests.’
Numerous scientific studies have shown that rapid antigen tests are an important tool for identifying infectious people quickly and accurately, even when they may not have symptoms of Covid-19, in ways that simply are not possible with slower, more expensive lab-based tests.
While the virus continues to morph its genetic ribonucleic acid (‘RNA’) to generate new and potentially more contagious variants, Innova’s antigen test, which instead looks for multiple proteins in the virus, is effective in detecting the emerging variants.
In response to the global pandemic, Innova developed an end-to-end ecosystem of rapid diagnostic and screening tests, along with digital reporting and tracing applications to help organisations manage the Covid-19 crisis.
For more information, go to www.triedandtested.tech/antigen-test