A British healthcare company which operates across the UK providing private COVID-19 testing for airline passengers, private individuals and businesses, has called upon the UK Government to “stop sitting on the fence” over the continued lockdown on air travel restrictions.
Covid testing provider Salutaris People – which operates a private COVID-19 testing clinic at Liverpool John Lennon Airport along with its partners Test Assurance Group (TAG) and the airport – are calling on the UK and Welsh Governments to open up both Domestic and International air travel. They firmly believe that the combination of testing, vaccinations and other safety measures can get the airline and travel industry moving again. They want the Government to give a clear and definitive set of dates to allow the safe resumption of air travel during the UK Government’s much-anticipated announcement on the 12th April.
Ross Tomkins MD of Salutaris People urged the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UK Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps to put down a series of ‘firm’ and ‘actual’ dates when Domestic, European and International air travel can be fully resumed, which will give certainty and restore confidence to both the airline and travel industries.
The CEO and founder of several successful medical and healthcare businesses, Tomkins believes that a combined program of regular COVID-19 testing alongside the vaccination program, the wearing of masks and regular hand sanitisation is the key to resuming confidence in air travel. He warned that unless a clear set of dates were laid out during the announcement on the 12th April, that the Government would risk plunging the UK economy into “an even greater economic crisis than we are currently facing.”
Tomkins also warned of the ‘ticking time bomb’ of mental and physical health issues that will impact and overwhelm the NHS and private healthcare practices for decades to come.
“The Government simply cannot continue to act in this manner and offer such vagaries over air travel any longer. The Government’s indecision and actions surrounding the resumption of air travel have been incompetent at best and reckless at worst. We need a clear and unequivocal set of dates for a staged resumption in air travel. Factored into that plan there needs to be a clear remit of pushing through with COVID-19 testing, the wearing of masks, social distancing and thorough hand sanitisation. I believe the public would gladly comply with these requirements if it meant they could resume air travel, enjoying leisure and holiday breaks again.”
He continued; “The simple facts are that UK Plc is now £2 Trillion in debt, the High Street is decimated, businesses are going to the wall, people are losing their jobs. We now have some of the biggest airlines and travel companies in the world on the verge of collapse and who may literally go out of business overnight. Without a clear, robust plan and certainty of precise dates air travel can resume again, the airlines and travel companies cannot continue to survive.
This is not to mention the phenomenal impact COVID has had on the public’s mental health and general wellbeing. Across our occupational health practices, we have seen a sharp increase in employees and patients suffering from stress, anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders including those with Long COVID. Such issues are significantly affecting their day to day lives and their ability to function in the workplace.”
His comments come after shares in airlines and travel firms across Europe took a dive last week wiping millions off the value of shares. IAG which owns British Airways saw its shares drop the most at 15%, while Easy Jet dropped 10%, TUI AG 8.9% and Ryan Air 7.4%. Other European airlines also followed suit with share prices downgraded over the uncertainty of the leisure holiday market and wider international travel.
Consultant Virologist and Infectious Diseases Physician Dr Brendan Payne – who advises Akea Life the clinical services provider to Salutaris People – believes that COVID-19 testing will remain alongside the requirement to wear face masks for at least the next three years in any form of air travel.
“The NHS and Public Health England (PHE) will need to maintain COVID testing capability indefinitely. COVID will not be eliminated by vaccinations and we need to find long-term solutions to live with it. An intensive programme of COVID testing is key as a major defence against new waves and new strains compromising our gains from vaccination. I don’t see this changing for at least the next year and probably longer. The most likely scenario for the next few years is a continued ‘arms race’ between new variants of COVID and vaccination. Widespread COVID testing is absolutely crucial and critical in winning that battle.
“For travel that is permitted for summer 2021, I would expect that this will continue to rely heavily on pre (and post) travel testing. I don’t think vaccination status will feature significantly in the travel rules for most countries this year. Current COVID vaccines are on average perhaps 80% effective and not everyone will agree to have one. There will always be a certain number of COVID infections in the public, despite widespread vaccination. Indeed, in many ways it becomes more important to test widely once COVID numbers become lower because you need to know as quickly as possible if you are starting to lose control of the situation again. This is critical in quickly identifying hot spots of infection cases rising.
“By 2022, you would hope that we might be in a position of much more standardised international rules for air travel. This might feature vaccination status, however I still foresee a significant role for testing, perhaps ‘proof of vaccination’ and a ‘negative’ test would be the rule. I think that masks are almost certainly going to be required on any kind of transport for at least the next 3 years, and quite possibly very long-term.”
Salutaris People which has series of COVID-19 clinics across the North West is also a partner in the first rapid PCR test facility at a UK airport. Salutaris People are working in partnership with Test Assurance Group (TAG) and Liverpool John Lennon Airport. The express testing suite – which has its own on-site laboratory at the airport – provides clients with a rapid PCR test and certificate in under 3 hours offering Fit to Fly, Test to Release alongside 2 and 8-day testing. It is one of the only airports in the UK able to do this, compared to the normal 48-hour turnaround for PCR tests.
Salutaris People is also currently working towards UKAS registration and ISO/IEC 17025 status in line with the Governments recommendations to regulate private sector COVID-19 testing services.
Ben Paglia MD of Akea Life, the Clinical Partner of Salutaris said; “The Government needs to offer a clear set of concrete dates for the resumption of air travel, even if this is in stages and staggered. Certain ‘hotspot’ countries could be restricted for air travel until vaccination programs are up to speed, but this must be combined with regular COVID-19 testing.
“Business and essential travel could open up first followed by leisure and holiday travel. Passengers could be identified as ‘Fit to Fly’ providing they have been vaccinated and/or taken a PCR test, along with the continuation of wearing masks alongside social distancing and strict hand sanitisation protocols. At least this way we would start to make some progress and have some certainty for the airline and travel industry. Right now so many people are suffering from lockdown fatigue, mental health issues, anxiety and depression. Just the ability to even plan and book a flight or holiday would provide light at the end of the tunnel and lift the spirits of so many people”
Salutaris in conjunction with its healthcare and clinical partners Akea Life, Therapy Direct and Normedica are also offering a unique COVD-19 Concierge Service to clients by bringing private Covid PCR testing to their location. A trained health care professional will come to a private residence, hotel or location and administer PCR tests. The tests are then couriered back to the mobile laboratory facilities providing express PCR results within 1-3 hours. The company also plans to offer this service across the UK in other key locations and airports.
Swansea professor’s COVID contribution recognised with new honour
A Swansea academic at the forefront of shaping our understanding of Covid-19 has received further recognition for his work in the field of data science.
This latest honour follows on from Professor Lyons becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and being appointed OBE in the New Year’s honours.
The focus of his work is the use of routinely collected data to better understand factors that influence health and wellbeing and developing and evaluating interventions aimed to improve the health of the public. He has led some of the largest studies ever undertaken in this field and contributed to research surrounding the pandemic and its consequences at Wales, UK and European level.
Professor Lyons said he was delighted to have been recommended for membership of the prestigious Academia Europaea, which aims to encourage the highest possible standards in scholarship, research and education, and promote a better public understanding of the benefits of learning.
He said: “This honour is a recognition of the shared efforts and hard work of the various teams and partners I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. None more so than over the last two years, during the pandemic.
“Through the European Population Health Information Research Infrastructure (PHIRI) Project we’re developing research infrastructure to generate the best Covid-19 population health knowledge. The multi-disciplinary, One Wales working group provided crucial evidence to Welsh Government’s response to Covid community transmission and informed policy development across the UK.
“The International Covid-19 Data Alliance (ICODA) partnership with Health Data Research UK and the Bills Gates Foundation and others, is supporting a globally coordinated approach to tackling Covid and future threats.
“This has been an incredibly challenging period for us all and I’m enormously proud that these labours have been acknowledged and rewarded by this election.”
Professor Lyons now joins more than 5,000 other eminent, individual scientists and scholars, who cover a broad range of academic disciplines that include former Nobel Prize laureates, Turing Award recipients and Fields Medal winners.
(Lead image: Swansea University)
Health board lifts visiting restrictions at Glangwili and Withybush hospitals
Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed that restrictions for people visiting patients will be lifted in Glangwili and Withybush hospitals from Wednesday 20 July 2022.
Visiting to Bronglais Hospital, Prince Philip Hospital and community hospitals remain open, by appointment only.
The health board are advised that it will still be a requirement to wear masks in Glangwili, Prince Philip and Withybush hospitals.
Mandy Rayani, Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience, said: “Last week we had to make the decision to extend measures at Glangwili Hospital in addition to Withybush Hospital to reduce the risk to our patients and staff and we thank people for their support and co-operation.
“We can all continue to take protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to protect vulnerable people and the NHS.
“We strongly advise anyone in our locality who has the classic symptoms, or who suspects they may have COVID-19 to isolate and take an LFD test. If positive, we urge people to isolate – this will help you to rest and recover while protecting others from risk of transmission.”
(Lead image: Google Maps)
Mask wearing reinstated at Llanelli’s Prince Philip Hospital
Hywel Dda University Health Board have said that all staff and visitors to Prince Philip Hospital must wear face masks (unless exempt) with immediate effect following the latest review of prevalence of COVID-19 in the community.
This follows the decisions made last week to reinstate mask wearing at Glangwili Hospital and both mask wearing and visiting restrictions at Withybush Hospital.
The health board have said that visiting will continue in general at Glangwili and Prince Philip hospitals following the latest review of case numbers but local ward restrictions are in place so please contact the ward to arrange your visit in advance
Mandy Rayani, Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Wearing a surgical mask or face covering and keeping a physical distance when attending a hospital or medical facility will help protect our most vulnerable patients and service users.
“We are grateful for the ongoing support and efforts of our communities to stop the spread, particularly around more vulnerable people.
“These measures will be continually reviewed, and as soon as it is safe to do so, we will ease these restrictions.”
The health board is stressing the continued importance of the behaviours known to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, and the different requirements in place in health and social care settings.
Mandy, added: “Isolating if we have symptoms of COVID-19, or other infectious diseases, is one of the most important things we can do to prevent the onward spread and break the chain of transmission.
“We strongly encourage anyone in our locality who has the classic symptoms, or who suspects they may have COVID-19 to isolate and take an LFD test. If positive, we urge people to continue with the same isolation guidance that has been in place – this will help you to rest and recover and protect others from risk of transmission.”
Later this week, the Welsh Government will update its vaccine strategy with details of the next booster dose in the autumn.
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Sir Frank Atherton said:
“The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. While the vaccine does not completely stop transmission it offers protection against serious illness and reduces the risk of hospitalisation.
“You can still get the vaccine if you haven’t had your full course, or you were too ill to get your spring booster and I would encourage parents to think about getting the vaccine for their children over the summer months to help minimise any disruption to their education during the autumn and winter terms.”
(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)
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