Industry body Mersey Maritime is bringing back a full events programme for the first time since March after introducing rapid COVID-19 tests for all visitors.
In a move described as “transformational” by chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke, the organisation has enlisted the help of one of its members, Kays Medical, to introduce the lateral flow tests which have a 98% accuracy and record a result in just 15 minutes.
In the last few days Mersey Maritime, which has hundreds of members drawn from Liverpool city region’s £4bn powerhouse maritime sector and beyond, has held several events, including strategy meetings, breakfast networking and its Christmas lunch.
Mr Shirling-Rooke said: “One of the great strengths of the maritime sector is its collegiate philosophy. Entrepreneurs and professionals from more than 30 diverse sub-sectors, have established a great tradition of coming together regularly to collaborate and support each other. It is one of the many reasons why we have established the most successful cluster in Europe.
“So when the pandemic struck in March it caused huge disruption to that dynamic. In the last few months we have really innovated and used the latest video conferencing technology to organise a stimulating programme of events for our members with world class speakers.
“That programme has been a huge success but we also recognise how essential it is for people to start coming together again. Hopefully the COVID vaccines will allow us to return to some form of normality in 2021. In the meantime, we are doing whatever we can to allow our members to meet in a safe environment.”
Mersey Maritime is using the latest technology to ensure its Birkenhead headquarters is as COVID-safe as possible. When people enter the building they pass through a special gate which takes the temperature of those passing through and sprays them with a fine antiviral mist.
Once inside, visitors are then ushered into a side room where one of Kays Medical’s fully-qualified nurses will administer the COVID test. All visitors are required to wear face coverings while moving around the building.
“The introduction of the tests, on top of the protocols and technology we have already introduced, has been transformational. At the moment we are keeping events to fewer than 10 people but this is a huge step back towards some kind of normality.”
Ben Ludzker, chief executive of Liverpool-based Kays Medical, is encouraging more businesses to introduce testing into their workplaces and offer staff and customers the confidence to return to their premises.
“So far we have seen some businesses who are really keen to introduce COVID testing but there are still those who are wary of the cost,” said Mr Ludzker. “However, we are looking to convince them that the testing offers a real return on investment.
“If you can test your employees on a regular basis it massively de-risks your organisation. It gives staff a feeling of confidence to be able to return. They feel the comfort of working for an employer that is socially responsible enough to invest in a safer environment.
“It can also cut down the risk of people having to take time off because they are ill or if they have to isolate. The cost of investing in testing compares favourably with the cost of providing statutory sick pay.
“Increasingly, people are expecting their wellbeing to be taken into consideration by their employers. We want to get the message out, particularly to smaller firms who may be worried about the costs of testing, that this is a real investment in their teams and can ultimately lead to a more motivated and valued workforce and higher productivity.”