BP tests offshore oil and gas workers for coronavirus

BP has started testing its North Sea workers for coronavirus in the latest example of companies securing their own testing services despite the British government complaining of a wider shortage of supplies and laboratory capacity.

The energy company said a “private Aberdeen-based clinic” was being used to test workers before they are flown out to oil and gas platforms offshore.

BP would not specify which company it was working with but said it would carry out both tests to see if a worker had coronavirus and antibody tests to see if staff had already had Covid-19. North Sea companies argue their workers are “critical” to ensuring a secure supply of oil and gas in the UK.

Companies in other sectors including online supermarket Ocado have said they have ordered testing kits, despite the government struggling to expand its own testing capabilities.

Ministers have pledged to carry out 100,000 tests a day in England by the end of April in the face of criticism over the government’s testing strategy, particularly in comparison to countries such as Germany, South Korea and Taiwan. Testing has reached only around 18,000 a day.

In Switzerland, engineering company ABB has also set up its own employee testing programme while in the US, Amazon has said it is developing its own lab to conduct tests. 

Companies in the North Sea have argued that offshore oil and gas workers should be considered key workers in the UK for testing purposes.

OGUK, a trade body for operators in the region, said last month: “We need to get up the list of priorities in terms of testing. We are not saying we usurp testing of doctors and nurses and things like that but we should be seen to be critical.”

BP said employees would be tested for Covid-19 on their arrival in Aberdeen, before being flown to offshore platforms. Staff would be provided with hotel accommodation while the results were processed, the company added. If an employee tests positive, they would receive “further medical assessment” and would be transported home to self-isolate if considered well enough to do so.

“BP has introduced a range of measures designed to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and contractors mobilising offshore, including robust safe passage travel and accommodation arrangements and pre-mobilisation screening,” the company said in a statement on Monday.

“We are now rolling out an onshore testing programme that will provide an additional layer of protection for our critical workforce and help reduce the risk of the virus spreading to our offshore populations.”

The company did not specify how many staff are affected or how many tests it is carrying out. 

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