The founder of a rapid mobile Covid-19 testing service is targeting the travel industry after seeing success in the sports and TV sectors.
Nick Markham, founder of Cignpost Diagnostics, said his company is keen to speak to cruise lines in particular but there may be opportunities for agents and hotels to use the service too.
Cignpost Diagnostics is a sponsor of Travel Weekly’s Future of Travel Week, which takes place online from September 14-18.
The company is expanding its capacity with more testing labs and machines and is looking beyond sport and TV production to new markets, including travel.
In the sporting arena, the start-up has worked with the PGA European Tour – organisers of professional golf events – as well as Scottish Premiership football clubs, athletics events and squash tournaments.
As many as 500-600 people have been in the safe ‘bubble’ created for a golf tournament.
A pro-am golf event with Freddie Flintoff and Piers Morgan led to the development of services for TV productions.
It is working with the BBC in the West Country on the filming The Pursuit Of Love, starring Lily James and Dominic West.
The firm is also testing cast and crews on productions by Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV and ITV.
Markham said the mobile testing service creates a safe ‘bubble’ around teams or production crews using vans, trucks and containers to house the labs.
The service involves testing people before they enter a safe location and results can be delivered within about 90 minutes, or up to four hours if there are higher numbers to be tested.
“We use PCR equipment which is very sensitive and is accepted round the world as the ‘gold standard’ of testing; it can catch people with low levels of the virus before they are infectious so we can isolate them,” said Markham.
“It can detect such low levels that you can be confident that a negative test means you are ok for three or four days – which is key for a TV setting with actors doing love scenes.
“It is not a huge leap of imagination to put it on a cruise ship. Everyone on the ship should be tested negative beforehand then tested every few days.”
If passengers go on shore excursions, they can be tested two or three days later to see if they have caught the virus, but still early enough to isolate them before it can spread, he added.
Markham said the costs would depend on the length of the cruise and frequency of excursions.
“We see lots of players out there charging a small fortune. We always charge lower prices to help with affordability,” he said.
“If you’re paying big money for a cruise, it would add a bit to the cost but not a material amount.
“Hence the sponsorship [of Future of Travel] – we want to know how we can fit in with cruise lines.
“This is our initial step into travel – we hope that by working with Travel Weekly the word will start to get around.”
He said the firm may be able to work with airports and travel agents to offer a service for passengers who need proof of a negative test before flying to overseas destinations.
However, the test would not suit arriving passengers in the UK as they may have only just picked up the virus on the plane or their final few days on holiday.
It could be used after a few days of isolation when the viral load is high enough to detect cases, at which point people who tested negative could be released from quarantine.
Cignpost Diagnostics is set to launch a consumer offer although it has not set a price yet.
“It would be affordable, sub £100,” said Markham.
“We have seen other private companies charge £150-£200.
“We are keen to work with businesses and pride ourselves on with coming up with solutions that work for them.”
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