A Cork hospitality group antigen testing all 200 members of its staff each day has identified positive Covid-19 cases before they attend work.
The Reardens Group said on Monday it had identified two positive cases among its staff members, after less than a week of the mass testing system being in place.
Under the system operating since last Wednesday, staff from the group’s venues Reardens, The Oliver Plunkett, Chambers and Preachers bars are paid an extra half-hour to attend a testing centre set up by the group before their shift begins.
After receiving a negative antigen test result for the day, they are given a green wristband before continuing on to their place of work.
Reardens Group general manager John Styles said the rise of the Delta variant, combined with the young age of many of its staff members awaiting full vaccination, were the motivation for the testing system accompanying the return of indoor dining.
“We have a lot of young people working with us in the group, the average age would be between 20 and 25,” he said.
“We brought [the testing] in to stop [Covid] from coming into the business... the safety of our staff and our customers was also a big priority,” he said.
“You’ve a group there when it’s up and running it’s 200 staff, so... you’re making sure that you’re not going to get shut down again or have to close again, just to reassure everybody really.
“I still think people are still a bit reluctant to go indoors, now that’s my experience there over the last week. As we went back indoors, people still would stay outdoors, I think, for as long as they can,” he added.
Vaccinated or not
Mr Styles said the testing is carried out for all staff members, vaccinated or not, at a “neutral venue” on Washington Street and operates for 12 hours, from 7am to 7pm.
“From a logistics point of view, we were lucky we had a building we could acquire near enough to the premises,” he said.
“All the staff come up and do a quick test, then they receive the green wristband, which is a talking point as well, and it just kind of reassures people that all the staff and people who are serving people have been tested that day.”
Medical students already working within the group led the rollout of the antigen testing and trained other staff members to carry out the tests themselves, Mr Styles said.
The centre is now “very fast and efficient” as supervised staff carry out their own tests, with six or seven people rotating through every 10 minutes.
We’ve identified a couple of cases already with staff on the way in that are being picked up
Mr Styles said the operation has added significant costs to the business, with each daily test costing around €5.
However, the investment appears to be paying off.
“We’ve identified a couple of cases already with staff on the way in that are being picked up. If they had gone in into the business it would have been challenging for us,” he said.
“One guy in particular was just after being vaccinated a week before that and thought the symptoms were a result of that,” he continued.
“When he came into us we tested him, he tested positive, the following day he went for a [PCR] test and he tested positive.”
Mr Styles said any member of staff who tests positive is sent home with pay.